Here’s the thing about being at the RWA National Conference with all these amazing, inspiring and successful authors — some of whom are traditionally published, some e-pubbed, some who are self-published, and some who are some mix of the three — it’s kind of like filling your well again. I’ve been so entrenched in academia since the last time I attended, I don’t know if I remember what it was like to have the same kind of zest for the creative process as I did when I first started getting really involved with RWA.
I mean, I’ve been a member since 2006. I didn’t join a local chapter until 2009. (And if you aren’t a member of your local chapter, I highly suggest you look into joining it!) I wasn’t even really that active on the online chapters I had been a member of, and I didn’t finish my first manuscript until 2009.
So what I started to notice and feel was that it’s been four years since I completed my first manuscript (which is still in sad, dire need of major revisions and maybe shouldn’t actually ever see the light of day again), and it’s been two years since I attended my first RWA national conference… and in that time, I didn’t think anything had changed. I still hadn’t edited the book I’d finished and I hadn’t finished the new one I’d come up with since! But in that same time frame, I’ve seen friends of mine get published, self-publish, get nominated for RITAs and get signed… Progress! I thought, they’ve made progress!
And progress translates to success for me. It’s movement forward, and here I’ve been like a stick in mud. Not moving, not changing, not doing much of anything.
I see what’s changed around me and I feel like the one thing that hasn’t.
But then I had a chat with my good friend Beth Yarnall and she said something that was so simple and yet so profound to me: “Hoe your own row.” She reminded me that even though I haven’t accomplished ALL the things I aimed for, I did still accomplish a lot of things! She urged me to think about what’s different for me in the two years since I last attended a conference.
1. I completed my masters degree in English with an emphasis in creative writing.
2. I had just gone on Date #1 with Captain the weekend before RWA 2012, and here I am, attending RWA 2014 with a ring on my finger and promise to marry him in 2015.
3. In 2012, I didn’t have much but an idea of my current WIP. In 2014, I have half of it. (Gotta get the other half!)
That’s a lot of change for a girl who didn’t think she was doing anything over the last two years. And it is! I’ve made progress. Just because it’s not EVERYTHING I set out to do just means I need to put in a little more work.
She urged me not to compare myself to others (which goes against every cell in my body and every brainwave in my head), but rather, to keep focused on my goals. Hoeing my own row, she said, meant that if I focused on what I was supposed to be doing — the task at hand, the business of writing the best damn book I could possibly write — I wouldn’t be able to look up and see who’s ahead of me without messing up my own row.
Staying focused: that’s the new goal from now until the end of the year. I don’t want to hit my 10 year RWA membership anniversary and still be in the same place… but to make that happen, I’m going to have my hoe my own row.