Another reason I’m not driving to DC just yet is that I don’t know if I can stomach four days of being around people who are near-carbon copies of me: anxious “emerging” writers who are in various states of “emerging.”
God, how I had that euphemism: emerging.
Anyone who values security should not pursue a career in the Arts.
By our sheer numbers, it’s a near-certainty that we’re not all going to emerge into what passes for a thriving literary career. When we flock together, we’re hyper-attuned to signals of each other’s success. It’s not that we’re jealous—to the contrary, it’s freakin’ exciting that major houses are publishing writers like Amelia Grey and Alexi Zentner and Hannah Pittard; it gives all of us hope, right? I’ve got friends. And friends of friends, and we all follow each other on Facebook. But sometimes, under a state of constant anxiety, semaphores of others’ successes translate in our minds as signs that we’re not professionally where we need to be.
Which I guess is a euphemism for we’re abject failures.
Anxiety, like other embarrassments, is one of those things we’ve been trained not to reveal about ourselves. Until recently, I feared no one else felt anxious. Then I read this Amber Sparks blog post where she admitted her anxiety. Amber Sparks, who’s written some of my favorite stories over the last few years, just happens to be one of the writers whose publication record is to die for. And yet, as much as her admission startled me, I was struck by the dozens of other first-rate writers who confessed feeling the same. Go ahead: look at the comments in her thread.
We’re all “Yardstick People,” Cathy Day writes. “A constant battle [goes] on between pride and humility” as we measure ourselves against the other writers that temporarily flitter nearby. I guess it’s natural and maybe even necessary if we can somehow churn these anxieties around enough in our souls to propel us to write newer, greater novels, stories, and poems.
AWP, of course, is also about the ideas and friends we meet while there. I’m eager to hear many of my fellow “emergings” read at off-venue gatherings. Hopefully, I’ll make the drive up to DC on Friday. That is, if the dishwasher repair person ever comes.