This Thursday I attended my first ever “Las Vegas Writers Group meetup” which is, shockingly, a meet up group for writers in the Las Vegas area. I went alone and for no other reason than because I want to be a writer.
It was the first time since I can remember that I attended an event for nobody’s benefit but mine. These past couple years I’ve devoted so much time and energy to supporting someone else’s dream that I almost forgot I used to have my own.
So, down a boyfriend and up a few free weeknights I decided I might as well crash this sure–to-be-poppin’ writers shindig. It took me three hours to prepare. Not my writing, but my outfit. And the last hour of that was just a back and forth with myself over whether I’d look cool or douchey if I wore a fedora.
As you see, I decided to go with it. Not that it mattered since I ended up being the youngest one there by at least two decades and nobody really gave a shit about me or my douchey hat.
Regardless of everyone’s disregard for my innate ability to accessorize, I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of the meet up. Except I didn’t know there was a cover charge and got kind of pissed when I had to pay a $3 ATM fee to withdraw the $5 cover. OH! I also get super pissed when grocery store checkers are like, “Would you care to make a donation to help cure cancer in children?” I’m aware this is a total tangent, but it seriously boils my blood every single time. How can I possibly say no to helping cure cancer in children? I mean sure I’m charging that $1’s worth of ramen noodles to my credit card, but why not? Throw an extra five spot on there so I don’t look like an asshole to the person in line behind me.
Anyway, that whole cancer thing just happened again today, which I guess makes it sort of relevant. But I’ll get back to the meet up just the same.
So there I am, $8 in the hole but feeling like a million bucks in my fedora. (I made a pact with myself in the parking lot before I walked in that if I decided to wear the hat, I would have to 100% own the shit out of it.) After paying my 5 or $8 cover, depending on how you look at it, I grabbed a seat in the way back because it was the only seat left in the house. And by house I mean dive bar/tobacco shop that serves “Italian American” food and warm beer.
There were at least 50 fifty-somethings, a handful of peeps even older than that (not that fifty-something is ancient) and, if I’m being honest, I guess there were a couple dudes in there close to my age. It was a smorgasbord of writers, nonetheless, which totally made my heart happy. I sat there scoping out each and every one of them, wondering what they were working on, what characters they had created, what stories were playing out in their minds at that very moment.
Which were authors? Which were screenwriters? Which were just bloggers with really high aspirations and a fondness for felt headwear?
Once the stragglers (me) were situated, a guest speaker humbly introduced himself as writer, Richard Wiley. A less humble handout indicated he was founder of the Creative Writing MFA program at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Associate Director of the Black Mountain Institute, and author of several novels including one that got him the PEN/Faulkner award for best American fiction. Mr. Wiley sipped pale ale while discussing the topic of the hour, “Common Mistakes Writers Make and How to Avoid Making them.” It took less than 20 seconds for me to fall deeply in love with him.
Within the hour, I learned I was guilty of most mistakes made by writers, in particular, cardinal sin number one: looking past the work to the reward. Mr. Wiley’s suggestion for overcoming this is to try and imagine publication doesn’t matter. He said that writers should write “not to say something, but in order to find out what it is they have to say.” And I thought, “Crap. That’s deep.”
While I really do love the process of writing, in fact I’d say I’m addicted to it, the process is sometimes overshadowed by a greed to see my name in print. “by Jessica Farkas” – I love the way it looks! I’m not even all that fond of my name, it just looks so damn good in writing. I’ll pump out a 1,000-word article on some BS topic I don’t give an S about if it gets me a byline.
But Wiley’s right. Writing is about the joy you get while doing the work, not the praise you receive when you’re done.
Truth is, the only time I don’t feel like I should be doing something else is when I’m writing. Even if it’s just a silly post for my lame blog, writing is what reminds me that I am alive. Everyone should have something like that. If you don’t, well then find it. And once you do, don’t you dare allow yourself to forget about it. Not for anyone.
Anyway, I also think it’s important you guys know that I ate some cheap Chinese takeout tonight and this was my fortune: