Less than four years ago, I attended my first writing conference. I had no inkling as to what to expect. I was nervous, excited, anxious, and delighted all at the same time. I’ve mentioned before that I felt much like Harry Potter as he first walked into Diagon Alley after discovering he was a wizard.
I was both amazed and overwhelmed. I was surrounded by hundreds of people who had similar dreams and aspirations. I had to choose which workshops to attend and that was difficult because I honestly did not know. In retrospect, I think I thought, at that first conference, I’d meet some fabulous person who would discover me and declare that they recognized my outstanding talents and offer me a contract. That didn’t happen, as a matter of fact, I doubt that it ever has.
Don’t be discouraged however, because although what I expected did not happen, things I didn’t expect DID happen. These unexpected things led to a very different life, a life I’d dreamed of for a long time. I like to call it #writerslife after a popular Twitter hashtag. So, why should you attend a writing conference.?
- Whether you have yet to write a single word of the story in your head or have a finished manuscript, there will be workshops that direct you to the next step, whatever that may be in your particular case. Among the very first things I learned was the importance of having a blog as a writer, for instance.
- You will network with people. You will meet writers still learning what it is all about like myself, editors, literary agents, publishers, traditionally published authors, independently published authors, industry legends and probably make a few new friends. They may not “discover you” but you will discover them. They will encourage you, challenge you and inspire you. After all, they’ve been down this same path before.
- By taking the time and spending the money to attend, you are declaring, “I am taking my writing and myself seriously.” I once heard that if you want to know what is important to a person, look at their calendar and their bank statement. Find a conference you can afford and start there. I’ve even attended a workshop for free when scholarships were offered.
- You will learn so much. Already have a book published? Well, great, but don’t let that stop you from growing, learning, fine tuning, and developing your skill. I have just published my second novel, written a dozen freelance articles, blogged for several years now and I still have so much to learn.
- You will discover new venues for your writing. I had never contemplated writing magazine articles, but through a connection made at a conference, it has become one of my most lucrative and consistent writing assignments.
- You will discover that there is no one magical way to success. As a matter of fact, you may hear conflicting information and it will be up to you to chew up the meat and toss out the bones. In other words, take in what you can digest and leave the rest to gnaw on later.
- You will come to understand that there is no substitute for hard work and determination. You’re going to have to pay your dues, face disappointments, perhaps experience unfair criticism and rejection. Then you get to decide whether you will use those experiences as stepping stones to the next level, or allow them to be stumbling blocks.
- You may discover that your journey is worth enjoying on the way to where you’re going. It may become apparent that some of the best things in life can not be rushed. After all, timing IS everything and your day is coming.
- How you measure success may be adjusted. This was a huge one for me. I didn’t think I could call myself a real writer until I had been published and paid for my work. I didn’t think I could call myself a successful author until my books were traditionally published and sold in high numbers. I now have a different measure of success. I simply want to know that I’ve made a difference in the lives of those who have read my written words.
- Finally, you will find that your focus has changed. Your dream of writing no longer lives in your peripheral vision. Instead, this thing known as word-weaving has taken a prominent place in your life and will resist being boxed up and put away for another day.