I am currently sitting on the floor of the New York 6th Avenue Hilton, my back to the windows, facing the Grand Ballroom (where, in the last 18 hours, I’ve heard both John Irving and Alice McDermott read). The attendees at AWP are not a particularly internet addicted crowd and so I’ve had no competition for the random blue ethernet cable I found tucked behind the drapes yesterday afternoon. It is located directly next to an electrical outlet and so I’ve now spent a sum total of six hours sitting in this same spot, blogging, responding to emails and otherwise trying to keep up with my online life.
There have been some really lovely moments during this conference (John Irving’s talk and reading last night was wonderful and inspiring) as well as some challenging ones. Over my lifetime, I’ve often spent countless hours battling feelings of illegitimacy and inadequacy, but I truly thought I had conquered most of those crippling emotions. However, since I walked into this hotel yesterday morning, I’ve been swimming in a sea of displacement, feeling like a trespasser and a fraud for daring to call myself a writer. It doesn’t help that the mainstream writing world doesn’t look favorably on blogs and other online writing (it was pointed out to me by several people smarter than myself that it’s in large part because that world feel threatened by the egalitarian nature of writing on the internet).
I had lunch today with a woman I’ve known since my first year of college. Kirsten was only at Whitman for our freshman year, but there was a group of us who grew very close in that single year. We lost touch after she left, hearing snippets about each other through a mutual friend. We reconnected a year ago when that friend pointed her in the direction of this blog. She is about five years ahead of me on the writing track, having known it was what she wanted to do since she was 19 and so as we caught up over sandwiches, I found myself spilling out all the details of my struggle with the conference and finding my footing as a writer in this post-grad-school reality in which I now find myself.
So often when I talk about the process of trying to make a living as a writer with another, more established writer, I feel them start to put up a defensive wall, almost as if my desire to write threatens their ability to do the same. That feeling was happily absent as Kirsten and I talked.