I went to the first regional conference of my organization, the Women’s Fiction Writers Association, in Philly this weekend. It was a nonstop sort of weekend, with workshops and meetings from 7:30 a.m. to 9 at night. I got to speak on a panel with other authors and agents, including my own. I sat down (in a bar, but never mind that) with Ann Garvin, a USA Today bestselling author and professor at the University of Wisconsin (“You’re from Wis-cahn-son! My brother and sister-in-law live in Wis-cahn-son!”). I gouged my hands open on a razor in my overnight bag and dripped blood all over the bathroom I was sharing with an author friend. It was eventful.
A theme popped up over the course of the weekend: keep moving. Agent Katie mentioned the exact phrase during her keynote speech. Ann, during her workshop presentation, addressed something similar: if we forget what we want, we end up just standing still (she was talking about characters moving through a plot, but about real life, too). I ended up discussing it too, during a question I answered on the panel: in publishing, time moves so slowly leading up to actual publication (trying to find an agent, submitting to publishers, making edits toward a final product), but once your book comes out, the expectations (and the time it takes to produce) speed up extremely quickly. If you want to succeed in this career, you have to anticipate that you will have a career: getting a single novel to print is something you move past, not just toward. It’s a strange paradox when you’re at the beginning, just dreaming of one day seeing your book on a store shelf: you need to be prepared to sprint once you’re told to move up to the starting line. I can only know this is true for a lot of other careers and dreams, too.
I write this both as a reminder and as encouragement. Sometimes it feels like life is at a standstill–and sometimes, that place is comfortable for a lot of people: people who are tired, who want to stop wanting, who would just like to sit down and rest for a while. But if there’s something you want, something you’re walking toward, you need to go get yourself a really sturdy pair of sneakers, because: your goal isn’t the final destination. Your goal, really, is only the first step along the way. If you’re dreaming, if you’re working, you need to be prepared to keep going. Because when you reach that first goal you get to choose to stop walking and start running.
Better go lace up those sneakers.