A funny thing happened on the way to a writer’s conference…

I’m at this writer’s conference, right? It’s called the ACFW, which stands for American Christian Fiction Writers. This year it’s in Indianapolis, and there are something like five hundred Christian writers, editors and literary agents all swanning around in a hotel together, with writing workshops, appointments to meet with people in the industry, dinners, networking opportunities, the works. It’s a big deal. I’m pretty tired.

I don’t want to talk about that though. There are enough people out there who write all about it and put up hundreds of photos. You can google them. I want to write about something that happened there.

I wrote this novel, right? I really like it. Some people who have read it really like it as well, which is a good thing, because really liking a book is kind of important if you want people to actually buy it. Part of the reason I came to Indianapolis is to check out some literary agents and see if they think people may want to buy my book as well. And part of me thought “nah”, because really, really and honestly, it’s not the kind of book that people who read Christian fiction would really want to buy. Not only that, it isn’t really the kind of book that people who read secular fiction really want to buy either. So I thought, “nah”. Yeah. nah. I’ve been wondering a fair bit lately whether I should ditch this novel and write something else. Write this one off as a “practice novel”. Write something that sells.

Yeah. Nah.

I tried not to think too much about it really. In a place that was already a little overwhelming it seemed the easiest option.

So this morning that was what I was trying not to think as I sat in my workshop. Give it up. Write something that sells. Do something useful.

The workshop was by a dude called James Scott Bell, who writes thrillers, and who writes how-to-write-novel type books, and one of the very first things he had us do was to write a letter to our novels. Yeah. That’s right.

We’re writers, right? We get this kind of thing.

We had to write to our novels, and we had to write what we loved about them. It wasn’t hard. Words come easily at times like that. This is what I wrote:

Dear novel,

I love you because you’re honest. You’re a real look at broken hearts and you don’t flinch at what you portray. I love the way you connect with readers, the way you jump out of the page at people and take their hand and lead them in. I love your voice. I love the way you’re not afraid to tackle the deep things, the things people keep hidden, the deep places of hurt and loss and rejection and humanity. I love your honesty, and I love you for your courage.

Forever,

Your author,

Megan.

 

I felt it. I felt the passion for the story that I’d forgotten, and I felt all the reasons I’d wanted to write it in the first place. I was there. And then suddenly, while I was “there”, Mr. James Scott Bell asked us to write another letter: a letter from our novels to us, starting with the line “I really wish you…” Here’s what I wrote.

Dear Megan,

I really wish you would finish me. Properly. Don’t leave me on the shelf or in the bottom drawer. Don’t forget about me and move on to something else. I wish you would remember the passion you had for me in the early days, when we were together every morning. Please keep going. Keep pushing, keep it up until I have a voice and a life and a place to breathe outside of your own little home. Send me Megan, send me.

Love,

your novel.

 

I didn’t know the answer was in me. I didn’t know the passion had been buried. I didn’t know the passion in me could be buried so deep that I would be tempted to put the story away and never finish it. I didn’t know I could forget why I cared. I’m very grateful to Mr. James Scott Bell. I didn’t finish the rest of the workshop. I had to leave soon after that to go to an appointment. I would have paid the cost of the conference for that alone, really.

I better go. I think I need to write.

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“That”: or Why Change is The Most Important Thing of All

People often say that change is hard, and it’s true. The things is though, change starts in your mind. The thing is, once you’ve walked something out in your mind it’s easy to do in your body. Once you start thinking something it naturally starts slipping out of your mouth. And the more you talk about a thing, particularly to other people, the more natural it sounds, and the easier it is to then go and do.

This works for both good and bad. I’ve seen people slip, through the babiest of baby steps, into life on the streets, hear stories of people slipping into drugs, into prostitution, into obesity, poor hygiene, poor nutrition, bad relationships, bad choices. It’s like you choose a path, and the only choice you get after that is how far down it you want to go. That’s a scary thought.

Now don’t get me wrong, staying on that path is never a given. I’m a born-again bible-bashing Jesus-loving proof that lives can change – but that kind of change takes a lot, sometimes nothing short of a miracle. Me, I was on a path once, and not a very nice one. Maybe we all have. Maybe we can all point to the time, the memory, and think “oh yeah. That”. That relationship. That decision. That job. That place. That. I tend not to think about it much, mostly because there’s no time to and no need to, and That is so far removed from my current reality that I don’t have to, for which I am deeply and eternally grateful. It’s come up a lot recently though, and the smack of it, of those memories, against the direction I’m walking stings.

I’m on a new path now, and those baby steps we all take every day, of choosing to buy a better microwave or deciding to throw out the odd socks in the laundry basket, those baby steps have become circular-legged sprinting strides for me, or so it feels. I don’t know, many people might look at them and say “oh hon, they’re just baby steps”. I’ve had a professional photo taken (see? All that stress about my hair going fluffy, and…four or five different products later, bingo!), started a Facebook “author page” (oh HECK, I’m calling myself a WHAT??), and am about to send my first novel off to an enormous writing competition (the ACFW Genesis competition, for anyone who’s wondering) and prepare myself to go meet agents and editors and sell-sell-sell myself to them in six months.

Megan Sayer: professional woman without fluffy hair.

Deep breath, Megan.

People do these things all the time.

Yesterday a man from the carpet shop came through my house to measure up for new carpets. Well, for carpets. We don’t have any. Today I’m going to buy paint for the walls, and fix the holes in the plaster that have been there for years. My husband is encouraging me to go to the computer shop in town and look at new laptops tomorrow.

People do these things all the time. Deep breath, Megan. It’s okay.

Once and for all, it’s time for me to let go of That. I’m not That person any more, and I haven’t been for a very long time. I don’t need to let That define me. I need to let it go once and for all, to cut it loose, before I find myself pulled out of new-carpet-author-photo-novel-writing land and plonked right again in the middle of That. Not physically, but in the limitations of my mind.

Because that’s exactly what happens. That’s why today That has to go. And if you see me crying in the carpet shop today then you’ll know why. Be nice, okay? Change is harder than it looks.