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Writing Conference Day 3 - Keynote Speaker

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Hello! I'm home after the last day of the Alberta Writer's Guild conference. I'll summarize the notes from the keynote speaker first, Ian Williams.

His talk about entitled 'Crossword Puzzles' and was about the intersection between myth and reality, particularly the myths, impressions, and dreams we have of what it means to be a writer, as compared to the REALITY of what it means to be a writer. He gave a set of 4 myths and realities, and discussed them thoroughly.

1. Myth - "Good Writers Need to Suffer"
    Reality - "We can be healthy and still write"

What he is talking about is this longstanding vision of the writer that is romanticized, the suffering, depressed, anxious, traumatized writer, and how that pain feeds writing. While writers absolutely can be those things, and their struggles should no be downplayed, but it shouldn't be assumed that a writer NEEDS to be those things in order to create good writing. he says to emphasize the positive, I survived, I am well, or to find the small victories.

2. Myth - "You are the representative of the group you are identified with"
    Reality - "I don't have to be more than myself"

This point speaks more to marginalized groups, people of colour, queer, disabled, women, etc. The audience perceives you as belonging to a group, and takes your opinion to mean that you speak on behalf of the entire group. You become a representative, whether you like it or not, and regardless of the individuality within the group. This puts a lot of pressure on you, you have to be conscious of what you say. It is important to remember that you ARE an individual, and if you aren't comfortable with speaking on behalf of a group, say so.

3. Myth - "Being a writer, I will be rich and famous, or I will be poor like Edgar Allan Poe and die on a bench in Baltimore"
   Reality - "You'll probably need a day job"

This myth speaks to the gran aspirations we have, and the pressure we put on ourselves to achieve them. It might not be rich and famous, it might be goals like "I will win X award". Its the things we seek to gain a sense of self worth from our writing. The reality is that those things aren't super likely, and you will need a day job, and you will need to choose to focus on writing for its own sake, and to find happiness in work that can be fulfilling.

4. Myth - "The popularity of our public persona, as filtered through social media, is related to how popular we are offline. And that you the author are responsible for maintaining that popularity, and the success of your book"
Reality - "Being popular on social media does not equate to being a good author"

You don't need to become a social media monster in order to be successful. You should be yourself, and only use social media to the extent that is useful for you. Do not rely on recognition through social media for approval. Also, its good to have a secret life, you don't need to have EVERYTHING online.

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