A few nights ago, I remembered the bag I brought back from my repeated trips to the Romance Writers of America conference's goodie room.
I emptied it out on the couch before the interested eyes of my 13-year-old daughter. Out spilled free pens, refrigerator magnets, emery boards, even a back massager! And of course, tons of book marks and postcards promoting authors and their work. My girl quickly found the couple of postcards that somehow still had mini chocolate bars attached to them.
And just like my daughter, I salivated all over again.I sorted through the enticing book marks of writers I'd like to check out, and the tantalizing PR pieces from publishers swearing they've love to have a writer like me. In a rush of three-day-old nostalgia, I remembered the fun. The fatigue. The excitement. The hope.
Like many writers, I didn't return from RWA with a hot new publishing deal. So what did I bring back with me, aside from a fresh bag of almost-forgotten goodies?
I think we go to conferences for two reasons:
1. To advance our careers (hey, that editor from the Big Six COULD fall in love with us).
2. To get inspired.
The outcome of the first one is beyond our control. The outcome of the second is entirely up to us.
A conference, and a writing career, can be a disappointment if you're only in it for the brass ring. That sucker can be far away, and some of us never attain it. So, we need to think about WHY we're writing, and make sure that reason is enough to sustain you through the lean times.
If you're doing it for fame and fortune, stop! First of all, you're delusional and may need professional help. Second of all, even if you achieve it, it's likely to be a long road. You'd better enjoy getting there – and be ready to stick with it if a market shift suddenly makes your current genre "not hot."
I'm not saying there needs to be joy every minute. There's not joy in motherhood every minute – ask any mom! It was somehow startling for me, returning to a familiar world where there's no milk in the refrigerator and I need to figure out what to feed people. Somehow, in a few days, I forgot about that? Funny how fast a person can get spoiled, sleeping on clean white sheets we didn't wash, and having balanced meals brought to us that we didn't cook!
But it's the commitment to what you've chosen to be – the love – that will see you through. Even when I'm not overjoyed with my kids at the moment, I don't stop being a mom. I'm committed to it. I took my pen name from the names of my children as a reminder of that – my way of dedicating every book to them. And it's a good thing, because that Sierra Donovan can be pretty self-centered.
Now, just as I've returned to the task of feeding my family, I need to remember to feed my muse. The goodie bag was a reminder of that. My name may not be up in lights next year, or the year after that. But it's our choice, every day, to stay in love with the process of telling our stories.
That -- like my chocolate-devouring child on the couch beside me -- is what sees me through.