Conference Let-Down

I’m writing this post through a head full of phlegm. I’m just glad the Spring Cold from Hell waited until after the Conference to strike.

If you attended the recent Pikes Peak Writers Conference and had agents and editors come to blows while fighting for your manuscript, go read someone else’s blog. If you came home from Conference and immediately edited and revised your entire 450-page manuscript–on Sunday afternoon–go read something else.

I’m incredibly pleased for all of my friends who got encouraging words from agents, editors and other authors. But I would like to take just a moment to address the people who went home from Conference and thought “None of that good shit happened to me. Who am I kidding? I’ll never be a writer.”

The first couple of Conferences I went to, I had yet to write a word. I had fiddled and farted around, but had nothing coherent to move me forward. I sat in the very back of every session, didn’t speak to anyone, and felt like a complete imposter.

I looked around. These people were real writers. They knew each other, they had inside jokes, and they all spoke in grammatically flawless sentences. Their teeth were whiter, their breath was fresher, and their brains more limber than that of the average human being. I would never belong in this world, I decided.

After all, I didn’t know much about genre, I hadn’t really written anything, I didn’t know anything about plotting or dialogue, and I didn’t know how to get from “once upon a time” to “they lived happily ever after.”

But still…the heart wants what the heart wants. Deep in my soul, I wanted to be a writer. I wanted to be one of these people.

So I kept attending Conferences. I paid attention. I read the recommended books. I joined PPW and started attending WriteBrains. Then I met Chris Mandeville, and any ideas I had about sitting quietly in the back of the room were shattered.

Conference can be overwhelming to first timers. It’s as though you leaned over the drinking fountain to get a sip of water and instead found Niagara Falls gushing toward your head. You can give up and drown, that’s the easy way out. Or you can hold onto something that inspired or encouraged you until you figure out what direction to swim in.

Is my metaphor getting waterlogged?

How about this, then. Most of those people reporting their great successes at Conference this year? It wasn’t their first time at the rodeo. They’ve paid their dues, done their rewrites, taken the tough critiques and made their writing better. There is no secret handshake, no code word, no shortcut. They got what they deserved as a result of their own hard work.

So if you came home from Conference this year feeling a little let down, you can either board the Self Pity Express or you can start getting ready for next year. Find a critique group. Complete or completely revise your manuscript. Read some of those websites or books on plotting or character or scene setting that everyone was talking about. Come to some of the WriteBrains. And next year, walk into Conference knowing that you’ve got the best possible manuscript you can produce, something you can pitch and talk about with pride.

And realize the simple truth that being in a room with 400 other people for three days straight is an overwhelming experience for most of us. It’s OK to feel stunned afterward.

If you went to bed at 8 p.m. on Sunday night, pulled the blanket over your head and whimpered a little bit, you’re in good company.

If you feel like the writing part of your brain may have cannibalized other parts of your brain because you were trying to take in too much, too fast, you are not alone.

If you spent most of the last two days sleeping…you must have been on the Steering Committee, and you are definitely not alone.

Just keep writing. Keep learning, Keep reading. And don’t deprive the rest of us of the stories only you can tell.

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8 Comments

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8 responses to “Conference Let-Down

  1. I would be surprised if many “newbies” went away discouraged. I remember well, my early years, thinking…I can do this! And feeling all the writing mojo that filled the banquet room at meals. Priceless. Encouraging, Energizing! Great post…and great water metaphor! It was great seeing you …Karen Lin

  2. M.B. Reread your post. *I* think you’re a writer…. ;-]

  3. Nancy - Big Sister

    I know you’re a writer.
    Let’s see she went from a water theme to cows and horses and then we went on a train ride…….I say that’s the beginning of a great story……love ya sis!

  4. This was an excellent post. As much as I love writer’s conferences ā€” and PPWC in particular ā€” I always leave in a cloud of exhiliration and despair. A weird combination of ‘I want to do this’ + ‘I can’t possibly do this.’ Everyone makes it seem so easy but it’s SO FREAKIN’ HARD! But you know what makes it easier? My tribe. Writers who understand the exhiliration, the despair and everything in between.

    I’m so glad you’re not sitting in the back anymore.

  5. Yes! I know exactly what you mean with your aquata-phors! Well done, MB. This paean to the newbie conference experience is a joy to read. Thanks! Now to get to that writing thing…

  6. Yes! I know exactly what you mean with your aquata-phors! Thanks for this paean to the newbie conference experience. Well done, MB. Now to get to that writing thing…

  7. Charise Simpson

    M.B. you nailed it! This was my second PPWC, and I did go home and whimper from beneath the covers, but not as long as I did last year. I feel like I just went to an all-weekend concert that showcased all my favorite rock stars. It was exhilarating just swimming among all the creative vibes. I can’t wait until next year!

  8. Amy

    Uh oh… those life-coach people will go out of business if you keep writing like this! Your message of perseverance is for anyone trying to do anything. So, how many dead bodies CAN you fit in the trunk of a Volvo? šŸ™‚

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