Who Will You Listen To? by Jen Colson
I shouldn’t have been there.
My practical side (AKA the bossy, know-it-all voice in my head) listed dozens of reasons why I didn’t belong at Breathe. They were good reasons, too:
“Writer’s conferences are for real writers, ones with agents and published books and fan clubs. You’re a homeschool mom who just finished her first book. You don’t have an agent, a publishing contract, or a fan club (unless you count your four kids.) Besides, there are other things you should be doing, like catching up on laundry, balancing the checkbook, and organizing your sock drawer.”
I don’t know about you, but my practical side tends to be loud and likes to get its own way. Yet honestly, I really wanted to go. I was giddy at the thought of spending two days with other writers—even famous, accomplished writers who probably wouldn’t give me the time of day.
So I ignored my bossy voice and registered for Breathe.
The night before the conference, I re-read the registration information and saw something I’d missed the first time: agent appointments. What? Cue my practical side. “You can’t…..”
But I’d already stopped listening. I stayed up late writing a proposal and polishing my pitch. My husband said, “Look at it this way—you’ve got nothing to lose, and it will be good practice. Besides, I know you’ll do great.” He’s much nicer than my bossy voice.
With only a few butterflies in my stomach, I pitched my story to a real, live agent. I attended workshops packed with information and encouragement, and was welcomed into a wonderful circle of writers. And guess what? They were ordinary people—with kids, gluten intolerances, and laundry waiting for them at home. At the same time, they were talented, funny, and whole-heartedly chasing their God-given dreams.
Something else I gained that weekend? The confidence to take my writing seriously. Before Breathe, only a handful of people knew that I wrote. When I got home, I came out of hiding. I started talking about my writing. I began calling myself a writer.
A few weeks later, I found out about another writer’s conference. I signed up right away, and my bossy voice didn’t even object.
Now I had experience on my side. I knew what to expect when I sat down with an agent, and I knew how to pitch my story. There were no butterflies, and this time I heard the magic words: “Send me a proposal.” I did, and a reply came a few days later: “I’d like your full manuscript.” Just before Thanksgiving, I was offered representation and signed a contract shortly after.
What would have happened if I’d listened to my practical side? I’d probably be caught up on the laundry and have a balanced checkbook. However, I’d still be scribbling away in secret. I would have missed out on great workshops, good friends, and a wonderful agent.
And you know what? I wouldn’t trade those things for anything—not even an organized sock drawer.
Jen Colson is the wife of one wonderful husband, the mom of four great kids, and the keeper of an 1870s farmhouse. She has compiled and edited two nonfiction health reference books and her articles about homeschooling, adoption, and special needs parenting have appeared in several magazines. Jen lives in rural Michigan where she is currently at work on her second novel.