Around this time every year, a lot of my friends get very busy with the task of creation. They become very industrious, putting together plans, preparing their suitcases, and checking off these huge lists in the run-up to... convention season! Indeed, there are a lot of great conventions that start around this time and last until the first days of fall, and the excitement for the convention-goers is palpable. However, for me, a guy who also loves conventions, this time brings about a certain amount of sadness. A part of my writing process, therefore, turns to working with these feelings and turning them into written words.
Fortunately, I have been blessed with many friends, plenty of whom are into the convention scene. I have spent decades surrounded by scholars, artists, gurus, advisers, reluctant heroes, dirty angels, jokers, liars and thieves – how could I not write about them? So I do (more often than they know). I wrote several stories about one particular friend I met back in 8th grade who was absolutely destined for the convention scene. He was quite a character and we had epic adventures. And when I wrote the stories about him, well… the stories kind of fell flat.
What was wrong? My stories were honest and entertaining discussions about things we did that landed somewhere between hilarious stunts and Class C felonies, pranks we pulled, and just stupid times hanging out together. But when I reviewed those stories with other people, the most common critique was, “not exploring the character enough.” Tough review for writing about a long-time friend.
As much as I tried to explore the character, the truth was that I was actually not writing parts. I realized I hadn't faced certain truths about the situation. There was one story I needed to write about the time we started putting together plans to go to the biggest convention in the Midwest at the time - GenCon! This was the dream of every creative-type in the region, and we decided one year when I was in college that we would go that summer. This would be an epic journey indeed.
Once I realized this, I sat down and wrote about how my plans to go to GenCon fell through when this good friend died.
Believe me, that story wasn’t the greatest thing I ever wrote, but it was easily the most honest. I faced up to the grief I carried, the guilt, the unspoken apologies and unresolved issues. I wrote a simple story about his passing, and it hurt. Horribly. And as I faced those truths, I knew just who I needed to write about. I had been holding back on writing in-depth about my friend to avoid reminding myself that he was gone. With those in mind, the rewrites were very easy, and provided some valuable healing.
As GenCon approaches every year, I still think about my departed friend. I tell myself, "This year I might just make the trip" and then I don't. There's still some pain there, and it probably will never totally heal. However, I can write about it, process it, and by using all those secret writing tools, make something good come from convention season.