There are many things I don’t do easily and believing in myself is one of those things. So when I received notice that I had been selected as a Scholar at the first Bindercon conference in New York City I was elated, which quickly turned to feeling deflated. My internal editor immediately began shredding my ego. “You aren’t ready for this,” it told me. “How were you selected from among all the other smart, funny, talented women?” Worst of all, it said, “You won’t belong.”
I wasn’t ready for Bindercon, but I prepared in earnest. I printed up business cards and wondered ‘do people even use these anymore?’ I re-upped my Twitter account; I signed up to speed pitch a literary agent; I developed a pitch letter to said agent and printed off samples of my essays on the Donna Tartt printer at Bennington College, where I am finishing up my MFA. I researched the agent and hyperventilated when I realized they represented Eula Biss. I seriously considered canceling my session.
Now, I am not in the day-to-day New York literary scene. I live in rural Upstate New York in a hayfield surrounded by hundreds of acres of cornfields. It gets lonely out here. We all know writing can be a lonely task: the blank page; the self-doubt; the ruthless editing, and the endless string of rejections from literary magazines. I thought these savvy writers would have it all over me or worse, might lord it over me.
I was so wrong.
What I discovered was a sisterhood: a glorious sisterhood.
I did so many things last weekend that scared me: I navigated the subway by myself out to Brooklyn; pitched my collection of essays to a literary agent; received encouragement and solid advice; gave encouragement and solid advice; shook Jill Abramson’s hand; befriended some amazing women whom I’d met only on Twitter and/or never; and realized the strength and power of the stories we have to tell.
And I didn’t die doing any of it. I repeat I did not die!
At Bindercon, I felt overwhelming empathy for and from these women. I felt an encouraging hand at my back, gently pushing me along. Best of all, I realized I was not alone in my feelings of isolation. We all stare at the blank page, we each sweat the individual words, and we are all scared.
But we do it anyway. We do it anyway.