Monday, May 5, 2008

Wisdom from Debbie Macomber

A little over a week ago, I spent a lovely 2 days at Chicago-North RWA's "Spring Fling" Conference. The fact that it's my home writing chapter doesn't bias me at all. (Not a bit! :-) Neither does the fact that I had good news and Ghiradelli chocolate squares to share with my fabulous chaptermates... But, if getting to spend a celebratory weekend with so many wonderful writers, agents and editors wasn't delightful enough, all the conference attendees were treated to an inspiring keynote by NYT bestselling author Debbie Macomber.

Anyone who's ever listened to Debbie knows she has a touching style of speech. Her prior addresses to writers have left me in tears every time, which is highly embarrassing and really interferes with my ability to concentrate on the dessert cheesecake. Last Saturday night was no exception.

But this time, between sniffles, I grabbed the conference dinner menu and jotted down one of the things Debbie said on the back of it: "When we follow our dreams, we give our children permission to dream."

This made me fight tears even more than usual because her words really hit home. Like many writers, I'd dabbled in fiction for decades, but it wasn't until my son was born that I got very serious about it. The reason, of course, was based in that netherworld between fear and love. I so loved this little baby and, at the same time, I was afraid of everything.

One of the many fears that haunted me was something I'd witness time and again in the lives of others: Parents who lived out their own dreams and ambitions through their children. I was petrified I'd somehow do this--consciously or unconsciously, it didn't matter which--so I felt I needed to do all in my power to follow my deepest dreams, regardless of the end result. I wanted not only to try to be a good example of someone who worked hard to create a life I loved but, also, to give my son complete freedom to follow his own heart's path without ever feeling a responsibility to complete any part of mine.

My son is now 9. He doesn't remember a time when I didn't write. He's frequently annoyed by the number of hours I spend at the computer (and doesn't hesitate to tell me so), but I know he's never doubted I'm doing what I love. He was the first person I told when I got "the call" and he was wildly excited...because it meant we got to go out to his favorite restaurant for dinner :-). Aside from that, though, it was just another afternoon with Mom--and, truly, that's exactly what I wanted it to be for him.


Carrie Lofty said...

Debbie's was inspirational, but I was fighting the tears during Eloisa's dead book baby/premie real life baby speech. Silly woman.

And I agree about the kids. I needed to NOT become my mom. After we left home, she kinda... collapsed... life-wise. Been struggling to find her feet ever since.

I'm looking forward to chocolate...

Eliza said...

That's a really sweet story.

Sandra Ferguson said...

My children have been my biggest fans since I landed that first contract. My oldest, who is at Texas A & M, loves to critique my work and boy, is she tough. My younger two are simply excited to see my dream come true.

I hope that as they watch all the struggles and the joy that comes from pursuing a dream, they'll learn to dream bigger and now that with persistence and diligence anything is possible.

Hey, and I love tears and cheesecake. :-D

L.A. Mitchell said...

What a thought-provoking post, Marilyn. So touching.

Save some chocolate for me. Better yet, a chocolate martini in D.C. :)

Pam said...

I heard Debbie speak at the 2005 National RWA conference and also found her so inspiring. Now I'm looking forward to the conference when you're a keynote speaker and a new writer grabs a menu and writes down what you say.

Marilyn Brant said...

Thanks, Ladies--you know, I just love reading your comments... Virtual hugs and chocolate martinis all around!!

P.S. Pam, how sweet you are to say that! Of course, since I turn positively green onstage, what that new writer will jot down on the menu will be a description for the EMTs: "She was dragged up to the mic and opened her mouth to speak, but then she turned this really sickly color--like an unripe mango--before toppling off the stage..." :-)

Maureen McGowan said...

I've heard her speak a few times too, and she's great. My "WOW" moment from her was in a small little workshop (only about 6 of us -- it was during a pajama party at a conference -- don't ask) where she challenged each of us to write our "big dreams" down on paper. It was the first time I admitted I don't want to simply be published, but that I care about having a career at this. Big breakthrough.

Not that the dream has come true, yet, but it has helped me focus.

PS. Tag, you're it.