A Writer’s Climb

by Brenda on May 22, 2012

Southwest Sky Line

On Saturday, I drove across the Southwest on I40, which runs parallel to Route 66. It’s 800 miles from Albuquerque to Los Angeles. The distance afforded me a few minutes to reflect on what got me there to begin with.

My daughter had just finished her first year at college and needed a partner for the drive home and I had registered to attend the National Latino Writer’s Conference. A boutique affair with limited enrollment. I hesitated when I enrolled and even considered cancelling at the last minute because I wasn’t quite ready for a writer’s conference, but when my girl called to confirm the timing of her trip home, I felt fate’s fists pushing me forward.

My hesitation

1)    I am Latin, but my command of the language is limited.
2)    I am a writer who continues to ride the coaster of confidence and uncertainty.

I thought the size of the conference perfect for a writer, come author, an intimate gathering to launch myself on the writing society. It was small enough for me to blend into. As appealing as the size of the venue for a first time conference it was nothing in comparison to my terror over the cultural aspect.

I am Latin. However, my inability to roll r’s terrified me more than being a virgin conference attender. What was I thinking tackling the two at once? I consoled myself with the opt-out-option. No one knew I was going, and no one would have to know if I backed out. If my daughter hadn’t been coming home at the same time, I’m sure I would have feigned a hangnail and opted out.

I am not an eager debutante. I have no dowry or pedigree trailing behind. What did I have to share during the tête-à-têtes between workshops, over coffee and lunch?

I have one completed novel, a second in motion, a string of publications, and the only degrees I have are in Business and Finance. The MFA, I joke, was earned metaphorically, while writing the novel and attending writing classes at night, and in between my outside the home professional life the inside the home, life.

What if I said Mario instead of Mmaario, what if my Gracias came our grass-c-ass. 

My angst reached boiling as I dressed the morning of the first day. I hadn’t purchased a new wardrobe, I was arriving in my standard vintage hippy wear. I wasn’t runway perfect and worse, I still hadn’t bother to read the definition of a dangling participle. What if there was an entry quiz requiring me to answer grammar questions, God help me if there was a section on Spanish’s irregular verbs.

The level of anxiety at meeting the authors teaching the workshops exceeded infinity to the power of ten. The number of awards behind the writer’s names is greater than my age. Finally, what would I say to the woman being honored for literary achievement during the evening banquet if by some improbable possibly she sat next to me.

What if I drooled mid-sentence?
What if my verb tense was wrong?

All this went through my head leading up to my arrival at the conference and off and on again on the drive home across the desert.

At mile one I was jamming to Sugarland singing, Wide Open

I’ve been waiting my whole life betting on a change
See it coming getting better getting better now
Feel the shake shake steady of a soul to the flame

At mile sixty-two is was Bob Seger’s, Roll Me Away

Took a look down a westbound road,
Right away I made my choice

At mile one-hundred The Climb, by Miley Cyrus circled ’round

I can almost see it
That dream I am dreaming
But there’s a voice inside my head saying
“You’ll never reach it”

As each song cycled my voice reached the heavens. The meaning of the songs wasn’t lost on me. With each tune, I was inspired.

Writing came into my life on the tale end of a shooting star. I wasn’t wishing for change so much as I was offering my soul as collateral.  On the morning of the conference, I could almost see it.. the dream I had been working towards. The uncertainty I’ve being carrying melted off my shoulders. I am a writer. I always was and always will be.

I didn’t drool (PHEW). I did say Mario without enunciating the M and the A. There was no rolling of the rrrrs. I sat through amazing poetry readings (most spoken Spanish) and was so carried away by the music of the writer’s voice I felt the meaning even if I missed every other word. As for the woman recognized for her literary achievements, it turned out we connected over coffee. She didn’t walk on air, she breathed in O2 through her nostrils as I do, and she slipped her jeans on one leg at a time, just like me.

The best part of the long weekend, was meeting with an Agent/Editor. She didn’t give me the magic key to the publishing world, but she did impart some practical advice during the one-to-one.

At the end of the weekend, I emerged a different writer. I’m sure I’ll tackle flustration now and again (OKAY more often than not), but knowing I left doubt and uncertainty somewhere on I40, was worth the climb.

Have a moment you recently experience that took you to the other side of yourself?

 

{ 63 comments… read them below or add one }

Jo May 22, 2012 at 5:07 am

Good for you! Overcoming your fear and your anxiety is a gigantic accomplishment. I imagine you gained much more than you even know at this moment. As you are writing, hence, you will recall little things you learned or heard and you will discover you are a bit better than you were, though that wouldn’t be necessary for this reader. ♥
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Brenda May 23, 2012 at 4:17 am

Thanks, Jo. It was a tad nerve wracking before my arrival, but after, it was so much more. You’re right, I learned what I wasn’t expecting, and grew because of it. I LOVE when that happens, when we find a bit of magic in the unexpected. Hugs for the wonderful comment. You made me smile..

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Helen W. Mallon May 22, 2012 at 5:07 am

Tackling the writing world AND the world of your heritage in one go was very brave! My hat’s off to you. If there’s ever a Quaker Writing Conference (there won’t be) I will equally tremble in my boots. Glad you came away so clear.

Your question at the end is a very good one. Lately I have been solidly on this side of myself, though challenged. Maybe my Buddhist teacher came close when he talked to me about Non Self….
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Brenda May 23, 2012 at 4:19 am

Helen, I read your last post when I was there and had the urge to tell you what I was doing.. I was touched by how you encourage your client and elated to see how well she had done. A quaker conference, now that’s a story. I am always tickled when I grow after tackling something which seems big and burly.

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Kelly Hashway May 22, 2012 at 10:27 am

Brenda, I’m so proud of you. I really wish you could see yourself the way others see you. I know we’ve never met in person, but I feel like I know you through your writing, and you are an amazing person. You belong with those other writers. You WILL succeed in this industry. I have no doubt.
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Brenda May 22, 2012 at 4:45 pm

Kelly, you make me smile. This morning I had an agent ask for the complete manuscript of Creative Woman. That’s a good thing, right? Now I know who was calling me on Friday (I had a 212 number dialing me but I was meeting with another agent so I couldn’t answer). It took me a while (possibly this past year) to embrace the words, Brenda, you’re a darn good writer.

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Jessica Vealitzek May 22, 2012 at 12:18 pm

I’m leaving for my first writers conference tomorrow in New York, so this post was good timing for me. Thank you!
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Brenda May 23, 2012 at 4:15 am

Hi Jessica, I am excite to hear how you got on. I wish you the best. It’s an exciting time.

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Lynne Favreau May 22, 2012 at 12:49 pm

Brenda, I’m so proud for you! I’ve been printing out and bookmarking applications for fellowships and investigating conferences and workshops hoping to find the courage (and/or money) to actually apply.

You are a wonderful emotive communicator, everyone deserves to read you and you deserve the accolades you get here in the comments.

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Brenda May 23, 2012 at 4:14 am

Lynne – I met with a wonderful agent/editor,Marcela Landres, who stated the most important section of Poets and Writers, was the Grants and Awards, section was the most important part of the magazine. Further, she noted, wining awards only helped if not pushed the unpublished author to the top of the pile. All in all, it was an unexpected learning and growth experience.

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Mike Adams May 22, 2012 at 4:22 pm

Wow Brenda, what a humorous, warm, and uplifting piece! Thank you so much for sharing your experience, you brightened my day and left me with a smile! To answer your query, I can’t think of any recent experiences of similarity, however, I’ve had them in life of course. This weekend, we may have crossed paths, I was up in Taos on Sunday. I was delivering the sermon for the Unitarian Universalist Church of Taos. It was a touch and go event…right up to the beginning. I couldn’t get the thing written just right and re-wrote it almost half a dozen times. Finally, I wrapped it up on Saturday night at 2 in the morning. Then the next morning, I didn’t like the ending, so fifteen minutes before the beginning of the service, I rewrote the closing paragraph. LOL fortunately, all went well and the presentation was great. I’ll send you a link, when I get the video edited and up. The topic was: “I don’t like your motives …well, not the ones I’ve decided you have anyway!”.
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Brenda May 23, 2012 at 4:08 am

How funny, Mike. We were a mere 30 miles apart, what a small world. I am glad to have left a smile on your face. I have fun teasing myself. It was trying (emotionally) getting there, but once I walked into the room all that melted away. Please do (send the link), I’d love to watch. I’m in love with New Mexico, have always been. It’s amusing or karmic that my daughter is going to school there.. fate is strange.

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Mike Adams May 23, 2012 at 4:13 am

I could so imagine the experiences as you described them and it made me laugh. My wife had a similar set of doubts and anxieties prior to attending the Erma Bombeck Conference a few months back. I’m really glad you went, I love your writing!

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Brenda May 24, 2012 at 12:38 am

Mike – You might have met Astra, from the Dust Bunny Chronicles, she too attended the Erma Bombeck conference. Thank you kindly for your wonderful words about my writing. For some stupid reason, it took me a while to say ‘I AM A WRITER’… aloud. Now that I have, it feels kind of good.

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Linda Medrano May 22, 2012 at 4:51 pm

As a self proclaimed “counterfeit Mexican”, I understand your concerns. I came up at a time when one was not particularly proud of one’s Mexican heritage. My mother (white from Oklahoma), ridiculed and made derogatory comments about my Mexican father constantly. As a white woman, she felt superior to that dirty Mexican. It took me until I was about 17 before I realized how ignorant Mom was on the subject. But alas, I did not learn the language. And that’s something I have regretted all of my life. I’m so glad you conquered your hesitations and went to the conference. People may be different from you, Brenda. But there’s nobody “better” than you. Your writing skills are extraordinary!
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Mike Adams May 22, 2012 at 5:02 pm

“My mother (white from Oklahoma), ridiculed and made derogatory comments about my Mexican father constantly.”
This is disturbing at best! There is so much basic civility missing in today’s world. I’m supposing they weren’t together anymore at this point (as a couple)? Perhaps you could take a conversational class at the local college? I took Spanish for two years in college and it is one of my favorite languages. Very lyrical!
–ma
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Linda Medrano May 22, 2012 at 10:52 pm

Mike,this was a very long time ago. Mom just really didn’t really know any better. They divorced when I was 14. I think at this point I’ll just stick to English, but both of my kids speak fluent Spanish. (So do my grandkids.) My daughter also speaks Farsi, French, Korean, and passable Russian. (She didn’t get it from me!)
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Mike Adams May 23, 2012 at 3:27 am

Wow that is fantastic. I’d give my left pinkie to speak that many languages.
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Brenda May 23, 2012 at 4:05 am

Linda – WOW!! That is amazing. I dated someone (yolks ago) who had a gift with languages. I was and remain jealous. I think it’s like music, you have the ‘ear’ and can pick ‘em up without effort.

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Brenda May 23, 2012 at 4:03 am

Mike – I wish you could have heard the writers reading their poetry. AMAZING!!!! It was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.

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Mike Adams May 23, 2012 at 4:15 am

I love hearing poetry in Spanish. It is my favorite language to hear. This evening, I took my youngest to his end of the season soccer party and spent quite a while speaking with a woman from Argentina. I hadn’t gotten to practice my Spanish in nearly 10 years it was a treat!
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Brenda May 22, 2012 at 10:12 pm

Linda!! That’s me, I hadn’t thought of the word counterfeit, but there is no other word more perfect. For a long time I didn’t fit into either world, my parents purposely didn’t speak Spanish and they pushed us to achieve what they missed out on. I have all the attributes, curves, passions, temper, drama, zeal, irrational behaviors, and so on, but my upbringing shaped my outcome, thus the counterfeitness. I am glad I went. It opened my eyes and gave me something I wasn’t looking for. I am glad you shared your story with me and helped with the description. And Gracias ( imagine perfect pitch and rolling).

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Carol Apple May 22, 2012 at 5:23 pm

Congratulations Brenda on taking this brave step. I can relate to your hesitation about going the conference. I would be shy about something like that because I feel like such an underachiever and have yet to attempt it. But your experience has inspired me to at least look for writers’ events in my area. Thanks for sharing this experience!
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Brenda May 23, 2012 at 4:02 am

Carol, so glad to hear. Before the trip, I kept asking myself if I had lost my mind, and now, I am asking, what took you so long. It’s all a part of the journey I’ve decided. Keep me posted on your adventures.

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Nadine Feldman May 22, 2012 at 5:24 pm

I love stories like these. We writers have a tendency to doubt ourselves, and those who find their courage are the ones who succeed.

I have felt this way at both writers’ conferences and yoga conferences. Regardless of how long I have practiced both writing and yoga, I still feel like a fraud at times. Once I actually get to the conferences, I’m fine. I tell myself that when I sign up for the next one, but I tend to go through a certain level of angst every time.
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Brenda May 23, 2012 at 4:00 am

Nadine, I wish it wasn’t the case, but there are those odd moments I stutter. The best part of the conference, wasn’t the workshops, but it was hearing other writers read their words, the banter, the passions flowing. I realized the purpose of the trip wasn’t so much to learn as much as it was to settle into myself.

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Claire May 22, 2012 at 6:03 pm

Just keep climbing that hill girl, you only need the stamina and perseverance, the talent, potential, imagination, ideas, gift of the gab and everything else you already got tonnes of!

Bonne Courage :)
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Brenda May 22, 2012 at 10:53 pm

Claire, I really have no choice at this point. It’s a steep hill, but I have to keep going (even when I want to whine and sip wine). I did come back refreshed (mentally anyway, I am still recovering form the drive).

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Debra May 22, 2012 at 6:47 pm

Don’t kid yourself Brenda. You are the next Latin miracle, the next Isabel Allende.
You have spunk and spirit, guts and grace. You’ve got everything it takes to ascend the heights with dignity and glory. Go for it!
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Brenda May 22, 2012 at 10:35 pm

Debra – so glad to see your words on the screen once again. I will ride your positive thoughts and well wishes far into the night and likely beyond. Having a passion isn’t enough, a woman has to stand guard over it, fight for it, and push herself even when all she wants to do is curl up with a good book. Hugs woman, and thanks much for the thoughts.

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Astra May 22, 2012 at 6:56 pm

I’m so glad you shared this piece, Brenda. I am both uplifted and inspired by this message and precisely how you’ve scripted it! A writer’s climb reaches no peak nor has no specfic known destination (other than to be published of course, though that too is often not the desired outcome). I echo Kelly’s words, “you belong”. I do feel in my heart, however, that you are on the perimetre of something big. Once this is accomplished, you will continue you journey …
~A
PS Sure hope you keep us informed.
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Brenda May 22, 2012 at 10:16 pm

Astra! Being the nerd, I am pleased you noticed the way it was written. I enjoyed playing with the wording and the presentation. This is what I enjoy about blogging, the lack of rules. I wanted to show more than say, if that makes sense. From you lips … I did have a bit of good news this morning. An Agent has requested the entire MS. It’s the little victories like this that keep me moving. There is still a hill to climb, but everyday I get closer.

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Beverly Diehl May 22, 2012 at 7:28 pm

I thought it was pronounced grassy-ass. (Or is that just me?)

You are an incredible, poetical, fiery woman – I am SO glad you went to the conference. Sounds like it was a great experience.

Another few years, you’ll be at the podium, sharing your lyrical poetry & prose.
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Brenda May 22, 2012 at 10:05 pm

Bev, I think you’re right about grassy-ass (see, I’m not even a good non Latin person). I am fiery, my kids would have a comment or three on that topic. I never have a problem dissecting a thought, or me, or an emotion, maybe because once it’s written it’s in the past, but I do struggle with the wonderful comments. Thanks kindly, as always.

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Dangerous Linda May 22, 2012 at 11:59 pm

Hi, Brenda! ~

Wonderful story! It’s hard to imagine you feeling unsure of yourself in such a situation — I appreciate your honesty ;-)

Overcoming my painful neck injury was my most recent trip “to the other side of myself” — I’m happy to be back!!!
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Brenda May 23, 2012 at 4:27 pm

Linda – smiles! I am always happy to share my klutzy first steps. Life makes for amazing fodder, does it not?

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Savira May 23, 2012 at 12:04 am

I enjoyed very much taking this drive with you.. Thank you. I was captivated and immersed into the songs that flowed one after the other… You keep rocking lady!
Now roll those ‘R’s like a tiger… Rrrrrrr Took me a while to learn the french way of saying the ‘R’s

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Brenda May 23, 2012 at 4:48 pm

Trust me Savira, my rrrr rolling is pitiful. I am pretty good though at warrior pose. Thank much for taking the drive with me.

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My Inner Chick May 23, 2012 at 12:28 am

–Brenda,
I love that you went to the conference, even though you had doubt.

You. Belong. There.

…more than most people I know. Xxx You. Rrrrrrock.
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Brenda May 23, 2012 at 4:49 pm

Hey Kim, it was all good in the end. I am richer for walking through the doors and embracing the moments.

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Elizabeth Young May 23, 2012 at 1:33 am

Great for you for stepping outside your comfort zone and realizing the world continued! This is very small in comparison, but I went to a clothing exchange I SO DID NOT want to go to! I discovered there were clothes in my size, my clothes went to good homes and it was an awesome outreach for the community. I was so convinced it was a bad idea because of my own insecurity, but afterwards realized it was an awesome idea and we should do it more often! (Hanging my head in shame…)
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Brenda May 24, 2012 at 12:40 am

Elizabeth that is a wonderful thing you did, better that you realized. Don’t hang your head in shame, we all have to get over the silliest things. You’re right, it’s always something nonsensical until after we are on the other side.

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Monica May 23, 2012 at 4:01 am

Good for you, Brenda! Doesn’t it feel great when you’re able to overcome a fear? I’d never heard of this conference but it sounds perfect. How many attended? So, would you go again? Do tell!
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Brenda May 23, 2012 at 5:04 pm

Monica, there is never an option, we just do it and when it’s all over we can’t figure out what all the fuss was about. I read about the conference in Poets and Writers. What appealed to me was the size of the conference and of course the location. My girl goes to school in New Mexico. I’d like to go again, but on the advice of an Agent I met during a one-to-one consult, I am going to branch out next year and hit a larger one now that my stage fright is behind me.

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Claudine Gueh May 23, 2012 at 10:01 am

We all battle with confidence issues, some harder than the rest. Am so proud of you for driving there & sitting through & engaging with fellow poets/writers despite all the flustrations. And am glad you didn’t drool (strangely, I’ve had that concern when I did presentations previously). Poems read in Spanish sounds romantic …

You’ve certainly made the climb, my dear. :)
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Brenda May 23, 2012 at 5:10 pm

Claudine, I wish you could have heard some of poets reading their words, beautiful if a pitiful description. That was one of my favorite moments to be honest. As for the climb, I am climbing and having fun here and there…:-)

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Nikky44 May 23, 2012 at 4:34 pm

We can never fail when we do something we love doing. You will succeed because you are pursuing your dream. Think of your dream, focus on it and all doubts will disappear.
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Brenda May 23, 2012 at 5:50 pm

Damn straight, Nikky! The only way forward is to leap with faith.

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Annie May 23, 2012 at 5:46 pm

So glad you took the chance, overcame your fears, and went to the conference. That is an inspiration to all of us! Congrats on the breakthrough.
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Brenda May 23, 2012 at 6:03 pm

Smiles, Annie. I wasn’t as bad as I imagined it was, rather quite the opposite. I figure I have to keep pushing ahead because of what I am finding along the way. It’s trite, but that saying about ‘it’s the journey, and not the destination’, kind of true.

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Dawn May 23, 2012 at 6:32 pm

In fact, I had just such a moment with my most recent post at my blog. It was the culmination of about a 10 day span of a wide range of emotions layering, one atop the other until I came to a standstill. Not frozen, but suspended. So full of emotions and thoughts that I had to stop. Then I had to write to give it all voice. It was one of those epiphany moments where the words flow in feverish pace and little to no editing is necessary, and upon reading back, the heart sighs in rapturous delight. Rare, those moments!

I congratulate you on taking the leap to attend this event! I’ve given thought to doing something similar, in addition to applying for retreat fellowships. I’m still ruminating on those and I’ll answer if the call becomes stronger. For now, I’m happy to have discovered you and I’ll return! :)

Namaste’,

Dawn
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Brenda May 23, 2012 at 10:32 pm

Hi Dawn, welcome and thanks kindly for stopping by and sharing. As I read your comment I wondered if you were talking about me. :-) My advice (have recently learned this) is to figure out where you want to go, conference wise, and work towards submitting pieces around so you can build up your portfolio ( you may already have one). I’m sure the next big step will seem as daunting, but I’m sure others that have gone before me will smile knowing how easy it gets after a while.. I hope, anyway.

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Casey May 23, 2012 at 6:40 pm

Hi, Brenda.

Glad to hear you got through your fear and did it anyway- rolling the ‘r’ is a real pain in Spanish. Thanks for sharing this post with the Blogplicity community.

Take care,

Casey
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Brenda May 23, 2012 at 6:44 pm

Thanks, Casey. Those darn rrrr’s – not my thing, apparently.

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Martha Orlando May 23, 2012 at 7:14 pm

Wow, Brenda! What a wonderful post! I felt your angst as you contemplated attending the conference as if I were right there with you. So glad everything turned out great for you and you were inspired to keep on writing just as you were born to do!
Best of luck with the book. I’m on that same path . . .
Blessings!
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Brenda May 23, 2012 at 10:28 pm

Martha, it’s half the fun (I think) challenging ourselves to go the distance. Thanks much for the well wishes, right back at you. It’s an interesting time to be a writer.

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mamawolfe May 24, 2012 at 12:57 am

I’m working on a global education grant…it puts me outside my comfort zone in so many ways. I do find, though, that the more I do that, the easier it becomes!
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Brenda May 24, 2012 at 2:36 am

jennifer -that is SOMETHING to be proud off. I am an addict to craigslist (great ideas there) anyhow, I always see postings for grant writers (someone looking for the person to do all the work).. all the best, hope to celebrate with you when it comes through.

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Irene @ Inspiration From The Little Things May 26, 2012 at 11:43 pm

Wow, that conference was truly meant for you, Brenda! It’s amazing how fate brought that and the timing of your daughter’s trip home on the same date. I’m so so glad you were able to overcome your anxiety and didn’t back out. :-)
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Brenda May 28, 2012 at 3:42 pm

Thanks much, Irene, it’s funny in a strange sort of way only fate can be and is, and likely to always be. I am glad of attending. It’ was exactly where I needed to be.

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rimly June 2, 2012 at 7:02 am

You are a fighter, Brenda and full of spunk. You would have come out of that confusion and lack of confidence sooner or later. Cheers to you, my friend
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Brenda June 2, 2012 at 3:44 pm

Rimly, I am indeed, but with all fighters there are moments of doubt and worry, which push us harder to reach our goals. I think of Rocky Balboa when I am whimpering.

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Monica June 25, 2012 at 6:25 am

Wow, this is fantastic, Brenda! I’m so glad you went ahead and attended the conference. I’m sure it was very worthwhile.

I had a similar experience last year. I had signed up to attend the BlogHer conference, but kept wondering whether I should go since I wasn’t a BlogHer writer. I kept thinking there’d be nothing for me there. But I went and had a blast. I met so many people that I’m glad I didn’t listen to the little voice inside me telling me I had no business going. I even wrote the head of BlogHer to ask her if I was making a mistake in going, but she encouraged me. So I attended and loved it. Enough said. :)
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