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Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Checking my Attitude - M. Laycock

Like many who are on this list, I attended Write! Canada recently. As many have already said, it was a good conference. There were a lot of teachers there willing and able to share their expertise with new and growing writers. There were editors and publishers willing to listen to pitches and just chat, even through their lunch and dinner hours. I heard good comments about workshops and inspiring plenary sessions. The venue was beautiful and the food fantastic. The organizers had done their work well, with much attention to detail.

But there was one thing I found disturbing.

As at most writers’ conferences, the faculty were to do interviews in 15 minute slots. They posted signup sheets and eager writers swarmed into the gym to reserve time with editors, publishers and advanced writers. They were held back by the moderator, who told them that to be fair, no-one could sign up until a specific time. That's when I noticed things went a little awry.

People began jockeying for position, some even shoving and elbowing and insisting on being first. When the 'okay' was finally given it was like the proverbial feeding frenzy. I confess, as people surged to the wall my pugnacious Irish nature began to rear its ugly head. I had to back away. I had intended to sign up for an interview with an editor, but I knew if I waded into the fray my elbows would go up too.

Later, as I was moderating the interviews, calling "Time" when the 15 minutes were up, I witnessed a few more incidents that were disturbing. Some of the faculty had trouble arriving on time, so people were waiting, and the time slots got pushed further and further off schedule. Some people got bumped altogether. And some were not happy about it. One young woman hovered over the shoulder of an editor and even interrupted him to say that it was "My turn now," even though she knew the person being interviewed had only been there for a few moments.

I understand the eagerness - or should I say desperation? – that drives us to try and put our work in front of those who are in a position to take it to the next level. I understand it all too well. But perhaps there should have been a large banner across the top of the signup sheets, "Honour one another above yourselves.” (Romans 12:10b)

The week after the conference I received a note from the woman who had coordinated the moderating of the interviews. She said she had appreciated my calm spirit. I appreciated her words, but I know where that spirit came from and it wasn’t me. Without the constant whispers of God’s spirit in my ear, I’d be giving in far too often to that Irish nature I mentioned. I have to recite that verse to myself many times, sometimes many times in one day!

In fact, I found myself getting a little ‘testy’ toward the end of the conference because I was not able to attend the sessions I’d planned to. My need to assert my “rights” kept whispering that it was unfair. It took several days before I could get around that voice, repent of the attitude and be thankful for the opportunity to attend a conference of such high calibre. As I prayed the Lord whispered, “what about the opportunity to serve?” Oh, yeah, there was that.

It’s not easy to go against our nature, which constantly hollers, “me first!” But it is one of the things the Bible urges us to work at. Preferring one another is just one of the admonitions.

Doing it requires a concerted effort to depend on God. It requires tuning out the voices that tell me to demand my “rights” and tuning in the voice that says I have been given much that I might serve others. As a writer I need to trust Him to arrange the interviews and contacts, trust His timing for my manuscripts, trust His plan for my life and for my work.

As a Christian I need to keep sharpening my understanding of the scriptures that teach these things, instead of sharpening my elbows.

Marcia Lee Laycock
Author of One Smooth Stone & Focused Reflections
www.vinemarc.com

1 comment:

Joanna Mallory said...

I want to thank all the planners, volunteer workers and faculty for investing so much in Write! Canada again this year. There sure were plenty of opportunities to serve. Marcia, thanks for the reminder to keep our attitudes in line with God's way. And I'm glad I'm not the only one who finds it can be hard work! I hope everyone came home from the conference having both learned something for themselves and encouraged someone else.