Giving Up on Writers Conferences

Many writers have done so. Statistically, I guess we’re more often introverts than extroverts. And maybe introversion keeps many writers from attending conferences to begin with. I often see fellow writers sitting alone at conferences, keeping quiet, not necessarily unfriendly if approached but sort of collapsing in on themselves. To me, this seems a waste of time, and maybe they’re thinking the same thing, that they should have spent their dough on an editor or a stack of books on craft, maybe a trip to Key Largo, a writing retreat or a date with destiny. Certainly shyness causes some of this reticence, but perhaps disappointment plays a part as well.

A writer friend recently attended the Crested Butte Writers Conference with me. She’d begun to feel discouraged by a lack of engagement with other writers in online classes and with writers and publishing professionals at events and conferences. She questioned whether writer gatherings were worth the time and money anymore. This conference was her final swing—to go in with a positive attitude, offering enthusiastic participation. If she once again felt isolated in a crowd, she thought she would be finished with writers conferences.

The idea horrified me, almost as if a friend had threatened suicide.

This was the third of five conferences I plan to attend this year, all in my home state of Colorado. I adore writers conferences and retreats, where I hang out with my tribe, and I believe you get about as much out of them as you give. But if you’re timid or say, suffer from Asperger syndrome as my friend believes she does, your comfort level at a conference could have a negative impact on your attempts to make friends or good impressions. It’s true that some writers go simply to learn. Some go to gather positive vibrations. But most, I think, have goals that are more socially and professionally oriented.

It can be daunting, exhausting, and some argue that we shouldn’t waste our time. This advice, given to a tired writer questioning the validity of attending conferences could talk them out of a lifetime of friendship or a chance to meet their perfectly matched editor or agent. It’s like a time travel story—what might have been.

Ah, well. I’m happy to report that my friend had a good conference. An editor is interested in two of her manuscripts. She made some new writer friends. She’s feeling less gloomy. I, of course, came home invigorated and practically writing in my sleep.

What do you think? What effect do writing conferences have on you? Why do you attend them or choose not to? Have you ever given up on them?

I lived without writers conferences or any meaningful fellowship with other writers for the first thirty years of my life. I don’t think I’d want to go back to that.

There are worse things to be hooked on, by far.

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4 thoughts on “Giving Up on Writers Conferences

  1. Well, many of us also say things we don’t really mean. We might mean them when we say them, but somehow they don’t usually stick. (Except for my mother who really may never have set foot in an A&P again.) Good post.

  2. Truth: conferences can be exhausting, especially the huge ones. It can be like wading through a swamp of nerves. But then I meet a few special people *grin* and suddenly the conference takes a personal upswing. Sure, the dream is having editors and agents clamor after my writing. Reality, though, is that nothing beats a great support network of skilled writers who inspire each other to improve and pay it forward.

    • Melissa, is that you? I will follow your blog! It was great to meet you, and I enjoy your Facebook posts. I agree about the people factor. You should glance at the post I put up a few minutes ago.

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