The e e cummings Tarot card rules my week. This is probably a good thing because I am embarking on uncharted territory in so many ways.
I am feeling unsettled. I am both unsettled and and anxious. Unsettled because I am back to being a pretty ardent self critic.I know that self criticism has it's pluses, but it also has a very slippery downside. Once you let it take control it seems that it can more negative than any writer or artist needs to deal with. When that critical voice is questioning most everything you are writing it can become a self fulfilling prophesy. You think there is something wrong with everything you are writing and soon you lose the ability to free yourself to take the risks you need to take to be the best at what you are doing.
I'm anxious because I want so much to move on past this questioning phase. I'm anxious to push myself and to try new things or try things differently. Unchain myself from predictability. And While I am anxious or wanting to do this I am on the verge of something about two and a half weeks away. That would be my first trip to an AWP conference.
Currently there are two overriding aspects of the conference that create nervousness. One is that it means I will be taking a week's vacation time from my regular job. People who know me well also know that I always have accrued vacation time that hovers at or near the limit I am allowed to carry without being truncated. That means if I go over the limit, the I lose and new time I would acquire until I bring it back under the limit. My vacation time is generally used a day here, a half day there. Tag a day onto a weekend or a holiday to maximize time off. My job tends to be crisis driven and when I take time off I come back to more stress. So just taking a week off is freaky.
The second aspect for which I am experiencing some consternation is that I hear war stories about the conference. Some of these are very veteran attendees. Some people try to be helpful by writing essays or blog posts with suggestions of what to expect or how to get the most out of it. Still, each one seems to emphasis survival. It doesn't help that well meaning people use such titles as:
- How to Avoid Going Insane During the AWP Conference
- An Introvert's Tool Kit for AWP
- First Time at AWP? 11 Ways to Tame the Beast
- 21 Dos and Don'ts For and AWP Newbie
- 11,800 People Sharing in the Existential Agony of Writing
I could go on, but you get the picture. It's insane, not a place for introverts, it's a beast, there are lots of dos and don't and that 11,800 people in agony is an old number - it will probably top 14,000.
If there is anyone out there who doubted I might be experiencing a little high anxiety about now I'm guessing that partial list above has built a strong case. But I digress....
Mr. Cummings (or cummings) is probably who I need for this trip. This seems like the Poet Tarot card I should have drawn the Sunday of the trip - but maybe there is yet a better one in store for me then. Maybe Mr. Cummings is just softening me up a little before in hope that come the 8th (departure date) that my feet will seem steady and I will be of (mostly) clear mind to experience this event and by experience it mean learn some things, garner some excitement and come away persuaded that I can better meet any challenges, including that nasty Nemesis of all artists of any stripe self doubt.
Things I believe I need to embrace:
- the possible instead of impossible
- quieting the fear
Looking at the weeks card - I hear Mr.Cummings warning me not the turn away from uncharted territory but to use it learn new ways for it is in fresh language and unique approaches that art blossoms.
So AWP can serve as a beginning of uncharted territory - My goal is to tame the beast, come home with a fresh perspective and energized (after a day to decompress).