Pain, Potential and The Payoff

November 7, 2007 at 9:59 am | Posted in Bria, career, motivation, writing | 4 Comments

So we were talking about motivation, but our guest blogger posted on opportunity. . .so guess what? I’m taking the opportunity to blog about opportunity (and, if you read between the lines, opportunities that motivate.)

I just spent 11 days “locked” in a beach house with 23 lady writers, 3 teachers and one poor man who ran home to his family each night after critiques.

One of the teachers is an extremely well known, successful NYT author. Ahead of time, from the questionnaire we filled out, she picked 4 people to be in her critique group all week instead of signing up for a group and rotating through each day.

I’ll admit, I thought that sucked. I don’t read what the other teachers write and didn’t know if I’d get anything from them that would help me specifically. I complained all week and then got there, met my roommate and said “hey, we’ll make this week rock and if we can’t we’ll go see the sights.”

That first night was a get to know you cocktail hour. Not My Thing. Too many people, too loud, too much alcohol induced get to know you chatter. And there in the corner quietly crocheting was an quiet looking woman.  I beelined for the peacefulness of a single person and promptly said, “Hi. I’m Bria. And you are?”

Oh, please. Do I really need to tell you who it was or from all the other mess ups you’ve read here do you know? Yup, it was the NYTS. Embarrassingly enough, this is not the first time I’ve done this. Thankfully she was not insulted. As a matter of fact she was gracious and the next two days she was kind and went out of her way to get to know each of us in class and free times.

But still, her critique group was singled out to the four. There was bickering and tears and hurt feelings – and that was just the people not allowed in the group. But, by this time, it was clear she made herself available to everyone except for that 3 hours each night after dinner so I didn’t know why the complaining was still going on.

On the second day a group of us was standing around talking and she turned to me and said, “I have a free night. Would you like to join my group.”

Panic! PANIC! By this time I’d heard about the group and it was every bit as tough as her reputation said she’d be. She is tough. Fair, smart and diplomatic, but Tough.

The panic must have shown on my face because she told me to think it through. No reason to – opportunities like this don’t come along everyday.  I showed up for group that night.

And questioned my sanity.

Did I mention she was tough? Did I really want to put my beloved work in front of her to be dissected by – not only her – but by the rest of the group as we learned to play by the deeper, harder rules she wrote by?

Yes. Yes, I did.

It went well. I learned a ton. My CP says mine went extremely well and that NYTS seemed to really like my work (of course all I heard was the things I need to work on – isn’t that always the way?)

There were some hurt and anger following me that week – I knew there would be. Several women didn’t speak to me after that second day when I got the invite – I knew that would happen as well.

But here’s the hard truth of it: I’m a writer. I’m working on having a career as a writer. Even in college I didn’t pull punches to be the best at what I did, to snatch at every opportunity that was fairly presented to me. I would NEVER take on that was not freely given or that didn’t honestly belong to me. I would NEVER push someone aside to snatch something from them. But this freely given moment in time to become a stronger writer was not going to be passed up.

At the end of the week, a visiting author introduced herself to me and asked about the week. I told her how lucky I felt to be included when a spot surprisingly opened up. Her response:

“Honey, you’ve known NYTS over a week know. Do you really think it was luck or that the spot just happened to open up?”

As I thought about it I honestly don’t have an answer. But I do know that we (especially women) always want to “play nice” and that if there aren’t enough cookies for everyone then no one gets one.  But the truth of the matter is, opportunities are only going to open up if you’re working your hardest to make them or to deserve them.

And then you’ve EARNED it. No one is going to start giving her co-worker part of her paycheck just because she earns more.  Don’t do it with your craft either.

Looking back, I realize that I often tried to share the cookie that I’d earned. This has hurt my chances, my craft and myself. Has anyone else tried that? Don’t forget – writing is a career – a career is treated as a job – if this is a hobby, then don’t begrudge career chasers their opportunities. If you want something – chase it, grab at it, and hang on.

Now, go out, work your butt off, and earn those opportunities!

Go Write



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  1. For me, I’m glad that you like to share. It makes you human. I’m also releived that you took that opportunity guilt-free. I’m more of a loner. I don’t look to make nice even though I’m usually nice. 😀 You did deserve it, Bria.

    {{{hugs}}} People are complicated. Relationships are complicated…


  2. Hey, Bria. I found this site through Romance Divas, just to let you know. I couldn’t remember Purple Hearts.

    Last week was phenomenal. If anyone had their feelings hurt…eh, they’ll get over it. We all plunked down our money in order to learn. An “opportunity” taken right there. I sort of crashed NYTS group because I wanted to see the application of the writing stradegies. Yes, it would have been nice to have my work critiqued too, but regardless, I learned way way more than in any other conference workshop I’ve attended. I came away with a plan for revisions. And that’s why I was there.

    Opportunity comes in all different forms. I’m usually the watcher on the sidelines. I can’t tell you how much matzo it takes for me to step up and join in. But sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do. What’s right for one person, isn’t for another. Many times opportunity equals risk. And that’s scary business. At least for people like me who live under a boulder.

    I’m glad you jumped at your opportunity. Good for you.

    And lookee here, I’m taking another opportunity….by entering the world of blogging. 4 posts today. A small feat for most people, but new to me. It’s that boulder thing.

  3. Thanks so much Laurie!!! It’s great to hear from you.

    There were 2 not-so-lovely people who didn’t take well to me being added. Guess that weeded them out of the potential friend/peer list quickly without any prolonged pain.

    Hope all is well down there with you! It was wonderful to meet you guys – truly one of the high points!

    Come back and blog post anytime – feel free to blog-nap me!

  4. I’m so proud of you Bria! May many more brass rings come within your reach!

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