Fear often keeps us from what we want, whether it’s a major life change or the perfect photograph.
I attended an amazingly good travel writing conference this weekend, one packed with some of the most important movers and shakers in the field. The faculty was chock full of editors and agents and writers I wanted to meet.
Besides offering the opportunity to learn to be a better writer, the conference promises connections that could well help a writer land assignments they’d never snatch otherwise. But the faculty doesn’t necessarily come running, open arms, to random conference participants. I’d have to muster the nerve to walk up, introduce myself, and engage in hopefully witty and memorable banter so they’d recall me later when my pitch lands on their desk.
I’ve never been good at that kind of thing. I’m a lively, mile-a-minute talker when you know me, but planting myself in front of a stranger, especially one who has the ability to give me career-making assignments, is flat terrifying. It’s far easier to skulk around, linger back, and twiddle with my phone while the gutsier writers attach themselves to these people.
But on the first afternoon of the conference, a talented and immensely successful photographer (we’re talking National Geographic) fielded a question one of the participants put forth. “What if I see a great shot of a person while I’m traveling and I’m uncomfortable taking their photo?” I waited for his answer.
“Get over it,” he said. And moved on to the next question.
I liked that about this conference. Honest, no BS answers. An editor at a major travel website told us, and I quote, “sometimes writers not as good as you will get assignments because they are ballsier than you. They have teflon skin and ‘no’ rolls off. They keep coming back and pitching. The shy, sensitive writers give up.” I’ve lamented, and even cried, more than once lately at the number of rejections I’ve endured. But his words were a challenge. You don’t break a powerlifting record by being meek and giving up. You don’t work your way up to 10 chin-ups, or a single arm push-up, or a double body weight deadlift by listening to the voice that says you can’t do it.
So with both these lines of wisdom in mind, I applied myself to the conference like I have to my workouts. When I could catch a faculty I wanted to meet, and that “oh, I can’t bother them, what will I say, I’m going to annoy them” refrain began, I told myself to get over it. And before I left, I’d met with every one I’d wanted to. I’d lunched with them, had dinner, tasted bourbon, joked, shared stories and found that they are just people too. Yes they live the life I crave and are immensely successful, but they’re also just people. And regardless of what opportunities may or may not arise from these connections, I’m proud that, scared or not, I got over it.