Last week I attended the Pacific Northwest Writer’s Association’s summer conference in Seattle. It’s kind of a big deal, attracting luminaries such as Natalie Baszile and Christopher Vogler. This was my first professional event and I took the opportunity to glad-hand a lot of authors, agents and publishers. Now, if you’ve read even one of my blogs one-third of the way through you’ll know I’m as interested in schmoozing as a porcupine with social anxiety. However, the event and the attendees proved far more engaging than I expected them to be.
One of the most interesting people I met was Bill Kenower, editor-in-chief of Author Magazine, writing coach, author of Fearless Writing and all around good guy. His message is all about being fearless which means stopping all the self-critique and self-criticism which leads to crippling doubt. Interestingly, Bill admits that he goes through the exact same things. His process is one of continually reminding himself to remember to be fearless.
Part of this is working to stay happy and engaging in those things that interest you. Bill said that it’s not what makes you happy that you must focus on but the state of being happy regardless of rejection or acceptance, failure or success. It’s all okay, he says. His message is punctuated by a story about his New York Times piece, “No One Is Broken.” Bill talked about the writing of this article which was about parenting his two sons, one who’s autistic and one who isn’t. People loved it. He received positive comments galore and of course that made him feel good. Then he got another comment, one that said, “it’s nice that you can love someone who is unlovable.” It’s the kind of trolling that might send you into a spiral for a day or even a week (or perhaps a month, in my case). Bill said he caught himself before he let that happen. Good or bad, uplifting or ugly, he wasn’t going to let comments change his state of being happy.
These words are nominally about writing and the process authors go through from silent toil to the public's reaction. However, these same principles of fearlessness apply to life itself. No matter who you are, or what level of crippling depression you’ve endured, it is vital to see happiness as a state and not a condition. A condition requires outside parameters to be met while a state of being is self-contained. To bolster that state of happiness we need to jump into those things that deeply interest us and be fearless about the results. I met a lot of great people to workshop with and even got a few publishers interested in my book. But the main takeaway was Kenower’s message of resilience, that determination to peel away the layers of doubt to find that person underneath, the one that’s been there the whole time.