I was able to attend day three of the Writer’s Digest The Business of Getting Published Conference in Times Square yesterday. I went with my friend Jessica, a fellow New School-er, and my before class wine-and-fries-buddy. We checked out a talk on fiction marketing where we learned more about social networking, building a platform, and the process of publication. Coincidentally, the speech was given by an undergrad teacher at The New School, Jennifer Gilmore. She was definitely generous with her information and very candid about the up and downs of publishing (she used to work in publishing; she said, “The place where they made the meatballs.”) Jess and I hit a bar and grill on the west-side after to recap the day’s events. We were trying to figure out what our author platforms would look like. By the way, you can find out more details about the speeches and panels on the WD conference blog.
What I really want to tell you about is the closing speech. I mean, conferences always rev me up, but this talk by Bill O’Hanlon was just so special. Bill talked about finding the energy to complete writing projects. The speech was called: Show Me the Energy and Bill was very much a pump you up type of guy, very Tom Cruise/ Jerry Maguire-esque.
He talked about the four energies that feed writing: BLISSED, BLESSED, PISSED, AND DISSED. He said you’re lucky, very lucky, if you come from the place of being blessed or full of bliss. It is rare, he says, to find a writer that is just so happy that they can’t wait to write about it. Didn’t Flannery O’Connor say that anyone who has survived childhood has writing material for a lifetime?
So, the energy that most people carry is more of the pissed off kind. Bill gave great examples of authors that were so pissed off they couldn’t NOT write. One podcast you have to listen to is Barnes and Nobles Meet the Writers with author Andrew Vachs.
I won’t tell you too much about Vachs because I think the interview speaks for itself, but it’s a pretty amazing example of someone pouring their negative energy and anger and PISSED-OFF-NESS into something positive. Bill’s speech about where he came from—pissed—was poignant, too. He was a very depressed teenager/young adult, to the point of suicidal, and his circumstances led him to study and practice psychology and psychotherapy. His pissed energy came from being around psychologists and psychiatrists that were ready to GIVE UP on people. Bill couldn’t take these doctors’ attitudes and so he fought back by writing books. It’s just amazing to hear these stories and to realize that most people write because they have to. Because they are so pissed. Writing is their weapon. I love that.
I look at the conference as a jump start. These types of motivating speeches, like Bill’s, really remind me of what’s important. Our energy is such a vital resource. We have to spend our energy in the right places, on the right things, and get rid of energy stealers. It makes you prioritize. Actually, Bill talked about writing a NOT TO DO LIST to remind ourselves what’s trivial and what steals time, makes us procrastinate. I can think of some of my DO NOTS right now: No cleaning today, no internet surfing, no reality TV, no negative thoughts. Today is for reading Saul Bellow, writing my critiques for workshop, and doing a little revising on an old story.
I’ll end this with the quote that Bill ended his speech with…a good old Winston Churchill:
“Never ever, ever give up.”