I’d much prefer to do a real-life riff on Hallmark’s Winter Love Story, where two published authors travel together while promoting their books, as I have a preference for all Hallmark movies starring Jen Lilley, but that would require me to be a published author in real life, which I am not. So Hallmark in Real Life will continue to embrace The Mistletoe Inn.
After breakfast with The Old Flame (see previous post), it was time to make my way into the conference. Over-caffeinated, with a stomach full of nerves and a notebook in hand, I took a deep breath and made my way into the hotel ballroom. Unlike The Mistletoe Inn, at no time did I have a physical collision with another attendee of the male persuasion, thereby generating a Hallmark movie meet-cute moment. Instead, I took a seat at a table with fellow conference goers with a polite “is this seat open?” no drama kind of approach.
While the real-life conference lacked over-the-top Christmas-themed decorations, it was filled with a range of interesting people from all walks of life: people who have been published, wish to be published, like to write, and are learning to write. Overall, everyone attending has a genuine love of stories and is supportive of fellow writers. People are eager to begin conversations, to learn about each other, and what projects brought them to the conference.
In The Mistletoe Inn, Kim expresses to her new friend her fear of sharing her work, a fear which I share and wholeheartedly relate to. The friend basically replies that if she doesn’t share her work for feedback, she might as well keep a diary, and in this instance, I have to hand it to Hallmark—the friend is right.
The movie was all about small group feedback for pages produced at the conference, while my conference involved me submitting pages ahead of time. But the real similarity between the Hallmark movie and my real life is that as Kim stepped out of her comfort zone, she ended up surprising herself and ultimately found love. As I stepped out of my comfort zone and truly allowed myself to feel vulnerable, I, too, surprised myself. I realized that I rarely allow myself to be vulnerable. Before meeting the first book agent, I found myself in the bathroom, giving myself a pep talk in the mirror, splashing water on my face, and scribbling the word breathe over and over and over again. It was shocking how terrified I was to share my work and receive feedback.
Yet the bottom line is: I need to write. Whether I am good at it or terrible, writing unlocks a part of me that lets me be vulnerable, and being vulnerable will allow me to grow.
Just like Kim, I made a friend at the conference—a friend who I plan to keep in touch with and whose book I hope to read in print one day. In the movie, Kim and her male writing partner go to dinner to take notes for a writing assignment. My new friend and I went to dinner to debrief on all that had happened at the conference and learn about each other
So now it’s time to analyze the elements of the Hallmark movie vs. my real-life experience.
The Mistletoe Inn breakdown: Hallmark vs. Real Life = What?
Location: Vermont (Hallmark) vs. Boston (Real Life) = New England
Activity: Romance Writers Conference (Hallmark) vs. Writers Conference (Real Life) = Writers Conference
Season: Christmas (Hallmark) vs. Spring (Real Life) = better New England weather
Substance: Kim gets out of her comfort zone (Hallmark) vs. I went way out of my comfort zone (Real Life) = Growth
Conclusion: Kim is published and finds love (Hallmark) vs. I remembered that I love writing and that having a life outside of work is important (Real Life) = Happiness/ Personal Progress
The moral of both the Hallmark movie and my real-life experiment is to keep doing things that make me uncomfortable, invest in myself and my hobbies, and engage in activities that bring me joy. Attending a real-life writers conference brought me inspiration, just as it brought inspiration to The Mistletoe Inn character. The real-life conference took me out of my comfort zone, as it did for the character, and living outside my comfort zone is real living. So if sharing my words scares the crap out of me (which it does) and putting myself out in the world like this is terrifying (which it is), I need to do it anyway. I need to do this because allowing myself to be vulnerable is going to open me up to new experiences, and with new experiences who knows what real life has in store.