Thursday, March 10, 2011

Writing Tip Thursday #8 - Conference Season

Today's tip is simple in the extreme: It's writing conference season. GO. Shaw's guide does a state by state listing of conferences. Promise yourself you'll go to even a one day experience this year. Why? Because, for a newbie at least, it can be painful, embarrassing and scarring. Duh, of course you need to do it, even if you only do it once to find out it's not for you. What you'll learn about yourself, the kind of writer you are, will be invaluable.

I went to my first writing conference last year, just for one day, and felt like a total fraud. It was as if I'd shown up to a plumber or a plastic surgeon's convention and expected to talk u-bends or fascia with expertise. I did not feel comfortable and I didn't want to be there. 

I'd like to say that at the end of it, I felt welcomed and that I belonged, but I think you probably know me better than that. I felt exhausted, bolstered up by the positive things I'd heard, downcast at the criticism, though it was definitely constructive and professionally given. I was an emotional mess. And I still felt like a fraud. But at least I was an educated fraud. I had an idea of what to expect, I had talked to people who felt exactly like I did and I'd met people who'd been doing the writing thing for decades and though still not published were determined not to give up. I met doctors and house wives and teachers. Everyone told me about their lives and their stories, like they were practicing for their pitch sessions. I thought they all sounded dreadful and really wonderful at the same time. I guess that's because ideas are really dreadful and wonderful at the same time, depending on who's writing it, who's reading it and how the wind blows.

My intensive workshop from that day was really invaluable, but I know I only scratched the surface of the conference world. This year, I'm going in again and I'm going whole-piggy. Three days, lord help me, not to mention a five hour drive to Pittsburgh. I'm lucky because a member of our writing group is going too, so at least there's someone I can get drunk with if Read & Critique gets too gruesome. I'm excited, the way you are excited to do something really hard that you have to do, that's good for you and that will improve your writing, but you know you will feel nauseous. Does that even make sense?

Have you attended any/many writing conferences? And do you have any advice for a fraidy cat like me?
(Other than shut up and suck it up, which, kindly, I've already told myself.)

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