I'm back. Back from the land of Utopia... the conference where, last year, I found my inspiration and decided to publish myself for the first time. I had a good time at the conference this year, too. An entirely different experience for me, though. I mean, I came away motivated, just like last year, but the whole experience was different.
I had friends! That was the first big difference. When I went to Utopia last year I didn't know anyone. I forged some amazing relationships there that time. And over the past year I've continued making connections with some really special people. Then this year, when I returned, I knew people! There were people who were so happy to see me again and people that I was so happy to see again that it made the whole place feel like home. I was so much more comfortable in (and grateful for) the moments when I had a little solitude and independence because I knew that I belonged.
Of course I made new friends... that's sort of the important thing about attending a conference, always forging new connections. And I think that the quality of my connections remains consistent. I may not know who the big name people are in any given group, but that hardly matters. The people that I connect with are valuable and important and we have lots to offer to each other.
That's important to me, feeling like I have something to offer. I don't always feel that way, and a lot of times it's because I have a giant doubt-monster talking me back into a safe dark hole away from the world. But Utopia is no place for that... and so when that inevitably happened to me at this conference I forced myself to get out into public space so that I could be swept away again by the enthusiasm of the other attendees.
And let me tell you, the enthusiasm is highly contagious. The people who attend Utopia aren't messing around. In an introduction to one of the keynotes, Janet Wallace (Utopia's visionary) said:
It's an important distinction, and one that we forget so often. Why wait for your dreams to tell you where to go? If you want to be a writer, go be one! If you want to be an artist, don't wait for someone to tell you you're good enough. Just go make art. Being an artist, being a writer, even without someone else's permission or validation, it's scary stuff! But you can and you should give yourself the chance you need to live out your dreams in real life. Otherwise, what's living for?
This is what I get out of Utopia. I get re-empowered every time to do the things that I dream, to not take no for an answer, to not let someone else tell me I don't measure up. Because I am here, I have something to offer to the world and I want to share it.
And I believe that is true for you too.
Now that I'm back, down from the mountaintop so to speak, it's time for the rubber to meet the road. It's time to make good on all the inspiration that I have had up until this point and make my dreams, scary as they seem, a reality.
It's not without fear that I open the Word document that contains my manuscript and resume the revisions that I need to complete before I share Trea and her story with you. And my doubt-monster says again that I have nothing to offer that you will want to hear through this tale. But I can't for one second believe that is true. Because if I do then I'll close the document and walk away. I'll let the dreams fade back into my subconscious. I'll never reach my goals. And it's not an option.
So be on the lookout for the novel. It's coming. I promise. I want to share my story with you! And I hope you'll share your stories with me, too.