Monday, May 2, 2016

Reinvention: NESCBWI16

This past weekend was NESCBWI's 2016 conference. A lot of wonderful things happened there, including getting to meet writers I've only ever connected with over the web, and getting to reunite with old critique partners who have moved out of state (and other writerly friends who I rarely get to see in real life!). However, what struck me most was the theme:


I am in the process of personal reinvention. Last year I got a new job and my first ever book deal. I have been going through a rapid change in my life, and I can tell a new person is growing out of it. A super cool person. *puts on sunglasses*

However, it is important to note that metamorphosis isn't easy. From the outside perspective, the caterpillar goes into the chrysalis and comes out as a butterfly. In reality, it's much messier.

Science time.

Just give me a minute, guys.
When the caterpillar enters its chrysalis (which it first has to build itself, for the record), its enzymes begin to literally digest its tissues. After that, several sets of cells begin to multiply, much like what happens to an embryo, and new body parts grow. This forms the butterfly that we all know and love.

These special cells that grow into butterfly parts are actually there all along, but they can't begin to change and grow until that caterpillar turns its own body into sloppy goo. Let that sink in. Apply it to your life. Cringe a little at the imagery. Go ahead, I'll wait.

Anyway, to top it off, when the butterfly does emerge, it's in no condition to fly away. I was just in my museum's butterfly garden a few days ago, and got to witness a butterfly break free of its chrysalis. That thing was exhausted. It was still all wet, its wings were all crumpled, and it very obviously took all of its energy just to move to one side of its chrysalis where it could rest.

I stared at it, shaking my head and thinking: Dude. I identify so hard right now. 

Reinvention is powerful, but it has a price. The end result is worth it, but getting there can be a struggle.

I took a walk today around my local pond. All the spring imagery was really hammering home the reinvention theme all over the place, but one image in particular stood out to me:

This family of ducks. It's a dreary day of drizzle and 50 degree weather, with no sun in sight. When I approached these ducklings, they were scattered all over. Upon seeing me, Mom and Dad began regrouping them in a tired flurry. They have their work cut out for them, keeping track of all eight. I could tell they had already had a "day". One of the ducklings was a good dozen feet away when I walked up, and I could hear the exasperation in Mom's quacking.

New life is beautiful. New transformations are beautiful. But gosh darnit, those things take a lot of work. Too often, we only see or think about the happy results. Cute ducklings, following their mother in a neat line. A butterfly soaring to its next flower. Debut novels on shelves, new presentations wowing audiences...


Reinvention. It's great, important, sometimes even necessary...but it is a BEAST to accomplish.

My advice, and the advice echoed by tons of speakers this weekend?

Do it anyway.