“…what dreams may come when we have shuffled off this mortal coil…”
– William Shakespeare
Sometimes writing good books isn’t about word count. Sometimes it’s just about living through a difficult week so that maybe, someday, you’ll be healthy enough to put words on a page.
2016 was that year for me: newly divorced, single dad, struggling at work, and feeling like a failure in nearly every aspect of my life. It wasn’t true, of course, but I felt it was.
Some nights I went to bed exhausted yet didn’t sleep.
One of the best decisions I made that year was to start attending writing conferences. I went to the World Fantasy conference in Columbus, Ohio. I crashed at my friend Josh’s place. In exchange, I cooked his family dinner. Calzones, I think. It was a soft landing. There was laughter and kindness. Nobody expected too much of me. He let me guest star in his monthly D&D campaign. At the conference, Marco Palmieri gave me some writing advice and asked me for a partial manuscript. I made friends with some really cool writers. It woke me up a bit, reminded me that I had a lot going for me.
I also attended Life, the Universe, and Everything, or LTUE. I stayed with my sister. I ate delicious meals with her family. Enterprise gave me a free upgrade. I did an interview with Howard Tayler, although my interviewing skills were a bit . . . rusty. Still, the interview turned into a low-intensity, multi-day conversation.
I didn’t do much writing, but I connected with a community that I love, and that gave me something special to look forward to amid the day-to-day. It gave me hope. I made friends.
Last February I got to do a panel with Howard. I’d been writing more, thriving, and finally felt like I had something to add to the conversation. This particular panel was “self-care.”
I arrived five minutes late and deeply embarrassed.
Howard smiled at me. He’d saved me the panelist seat next to him. “Where have you been?” he asked.
“You know. Taking care of myself,” I said. “This is the self-care panel, right?”
Howard grinned. Everyone else laughed. Good friends are like that. They set you up for the home run.
Be a friend. Set someone up for the home run. Bring out the best in the people around you.