Last year when I went to Ad Astra I was prepared to attend a small con. For me that meant that I knew things would either be a hit of a miss. There was no big name attractions, and the panels could either be massively informative or completely off track. I had even decided to not go to the YA panels because it always sort of felt like a primer level discussion instead of an advanced level discussion and I felt like I was more at the advanced level. And then I was convinced by my partners in crime to attend one on Friday night and it blew my mind. I connected strongly with the panelists and that was it for me for the weekend. I pretty much fangirled the entire time and was happy to listen to those panelists talk about whatever.
This year, I was hoping to recreate the same magic, but maybe more so. I knew myself better and was hoping to have legitimate conversations instead of odd flailing about. This year though there was no YA track. But I kept my head high and was like it’s okay. I will go to panels on Friday night, I will listen, surely I will find my people. You know, the ones you connect with on an intellectual level that pretty much read your mind and give you the content you are looking for. The affirmation that you are not crazy and you are in this together. I kept looking and while I enjoyed certain panelists, that instant fangirl feel was elusive.
But I was determined. So I pulled my shit together and did something big and scary and I decided I was going to go out and socialize in the Con Suites in the evening. I did, and it was pretty great. I got to meet and talk to people I might not have. I discussed being an ML for NaNoWriMo and connected with writers on a this is my life level and this is what I like.
Each year though brings a different crowd of writers. You can see your repeat performers who are there year after year, but then there is this other crowd who is sometimes there and sometimes not. Taking that into consideration that will change the type of panels that are offered, and even the tone of those panels depending on the conversations and the POV’s brought to the table.
This year, I took a wide sweep at things, trying to pick up one panel from different themes. What I found was sometimes I hit the right panel and got a great group and discussion and other times I hit a panel and found it fell flat for me, and then I revamped my schedule and avoided that subject in the future, because I didn’t connect only to have one of my group go to it, and they connected and then I was like, why?
I also ended up the weekend with the How to Make it as a Writer panel. Everyone on that panel insisted that they were a full time writer, but the things they had to do to make it felt more like the work shuffle to make ends meet. Pick up this contract here temporarily, consult there, edit here, work this part time job, have your spouse be your patron and your support, fit your writing into the margins of your life. To me that is not the definition of being a full time writer. That is the definition of making ends meet. A full time writer to me, is not having to do all the shuffling, the hustling. It left me feeling both bereft and that I need to hold onto a good thing, which is my full time day job, because I will need the money to support myself while following this dream.
The thing is with the economy being the way it is those rolls of who is pulling in more money are going to flip back and forth between my partner and I. When he is working it is good. When he is not, things are slim. When he is working I could be a full time writer. When he is not, we can’t afford that. I’m therefore not going to quite the day job until I am at a place where I am making the equivalent or more of my full time day job, but at that point I would be accustomed to the double income source, and the time management shuffle, that maybe I might keep doing the dance? Or will it come a time where I can’t do the time shuffle anymore and I will have to choose? Will I make the choice based on happiness or money? What will be weighing factors? I won’t know till I get there.
Last year I came out of there just brimming with happiness but feeling the disconnect of having to go back to the day job. This year it left me with a feeling of yes I can do this, but with a healthy dose of reality. A determination to put the effort in but not burn out while doing this, because this is not a sprint, this is a marathon. This a long journey. There is no one defining moment of yes, I am here. There is no final destination just further adventures. And sometimes Adventure is just a fancy word of saying big scary change, with a positive spin and a yes I can do attitude.