Thursday, May 12, 2011

Aspen Summer Words: Registration submitted, ready to go

This wasn’t my usual type of procrastination. The usual type runs along the lines of “I should do that but I don’t want to do it yet but I ought to just get it done but I’ll get to it soon but just not right now.” This time, it was procrastination more along the lines of putting a Hershey’s chocolate kiss on the kitchen table and telling yourself you won’t eat it quite yet. Not really procrastination at all as much as holding off on a reward until you really feel like you’ve earned it.

I hadn’t earned this one at all, just been lucky enough to stumble into it, but after holding off with my mouth watering, in a figurative manner, for weeks, I finally took a few moments yesterday to submit my registration for the Aspen Summer Words conference.

And in fact, receiving the confirmation was no less pleasurable than the anticipation of looking ahead to registering had been. Assuming all goes as planned and I depart in six weeks for the Aspen Writers Festival summer event, it will be my third time there. And I can’t wait. It’s always an amazing opportunity; I’m still a little bit astounded to think I’m going to experience it yet again.

In general, I’m not a big proponent of writers’ conferences. I get my best writing done sitting at my kitchen table or at the library. When I gave a talk on writing a couple of months ago, one thing I said to the audience was “Don’t tell yourself you’ll write the book once you finally have the chance to spend a month in complete solitude in a windswept cottage on the coast of Maine. Most likely that will never happen, and even if it did, you don’t really need that. Writing at its best should be a regular part of daily life, not something you have to move heaven and hell in order to be able to get done.”

All true, which is why I myself don’t dream of weeks of solitude for writing. But the Aspen conference never lets me down. It’s a full week of conferences, workshops, panels, lectures, and discussions; even better, it’s a week surrounded by other people who love writing. They are writers at all levels: hugely successful novelists, freelancers like me who get paid to write but still believe they have yet to hit their stride, and some who are newcomers to the dream of writing, taking part in the conference as a way to get their very first poems or stories out of their heads and onto paper.

Both times I’ve gone before, I’ve met such a wide variety of people and had so many interesting discussions with them. I’ve learned a lot, too. For me, the best way to hone my writing is to work at it, but I learn other things, separate from the craft of writing, at the conference. I learn about the industry, and new directions in publication. I find out about up-and-coming authors. I hear poetry read aloud. I find out what kinds of experiences other writers have had with first-time publication.

So I consider myself extremely lucky to be planning a return trip this summer. Clicking on the “register” button yesterday filled me with a sense of joyful anticipation. Most of the year, I write in relative solitude; not on a windswept island but at my desk or kitchen table. Once a year, it’s wonderful to spend five days surrounded by colleagues, and so once again, I’m counting down the days ‘til departure.

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