Have you ever known someone who assumes the very worst possible meaning behind whatever is said to them? You could be walking along through a department store with a person like this and when you say, "Ooh! Look at that blue skirt! It's so pretty", this person will assume you mean it as a personal insult to them since they are wearing tan pants and not a blue skirt. Pretty extreme but I've seen it before.
Similarly, there are some people who could walk into a beautiful garden and only notice the spiders and slugs. I've never actually known anyone to do this but I'm guessing it's happened at some point in history.
The truth is that we all have moments when we cease to see the beauty around us because we are focused on some imperfection.
The day I went to the writing and illustration conference was one of those times. I met really nice people. Most of them said kind things, helpful things, instructive and informative things. And there were cookies. But because I was in a dark mental fog I didn't really focus on most of that. I did however zero in on a moment when this one person who worked for a publishing company said, "Have you ever considered using more modern clothing for your characters?" She must not have noticed that I myself was dressed a little like Mary Poppins.
(Sadly there are not a lot of Mary Poppins type clothes currently being manufactured. Although, now that the new movie is coming out, maybe there will be a revival. Oh, I hope so! )
I also paid close attention when an illustrator leading a workshop I attended said, "Without fail, when I go to schools and ask kids to draw a character, there's always a little girl or two who draw a character in a fluffy dress with an apron on." She shook her head, and went on to ask, "When was the last time you saw somebody wearing something like that?" I wanted to say, "Yesterday. It was me." But I didn't.
I also paid attention in a writing workshop when the teacher shared a formula for writing a great story. Part of the formula was that towards the end of the story the main character (the hero) needs to save them-self. It's very important that no one else rescues them. "Great," I thought. "I just wrote a book about a main character who's not the hero of the story and who has to be rescued by outside forces…"
And I paid really close attention when multiple people from publishing companies talked (and laughed) about the horrible rhyming picture book manuscripts they receive constantly. Apparently these are often the lowest of the low. "Great," I thought. "I just sent a rhyming picture book manuscript to an agent…"
Now I'll remind you, I met really nice people at the convention. Most of them said kind things, helpful things, instructive and informative things. And there were cookies. But… I came away remembering mainly the gloomy moments and feeling very disheartened.