My final takeaway after attending myriad writing conferences for a year is to sit back, relax, and enjoy yourself. I know it can be stressful to network, have your work critiqued, or pitch to an agent. But it’s important to remember that writing conferences are not put on to induce stress. They are there to help you grow as a writer, make new writing contacts, and have a good time.
You’re probably asking, How do I do that?
Well, everyone is different – what is fun to some might be torture for others. But I think the following tips are fairly universal and will help you enjoy your next writing conference.
1. Play! Sign up for at least one workshop or session that lets you play. Or daydream. Or
laugh. Some of my favorite sessions have been ones where I spent time playing with the craft – literally. We cut and pasted. We colored words. And I left with a long list of possible characters and situations. Another that comes to mind involved humor writing – the presenters were a riot and had me laughing for most of the hour. Another involved incorporating tricks and techniques from the theater to improve writing (and trust me, I don’t have the drama bug). All of these were a departure from my normal approach and all made the conference fun.
2. Take a break. Let’s be honest – conferences can be exhausting! Especially multi-day conferences. If you’re feeling like you can’t maintain, take a break. Go for a quick walk. Find a quiet space and doodle/journal/read/stare into space. Do you have a hotel room? Take a 20-minute power nap or a quick shower. I know when I’ve felt like I’ve reached the end of my rope at conferences, taking a break allowed me to re-enter with a positive mindset and renewed energy
3. Indulge. There is usually a spread of delectable goodies at writing conferences. And I’m not talking food. Check out the books and other writing-related items for sale and allow yourself an indulgence or two. I’ve picked up books at writing conferences that I wouldn’t have heard of otherwise. They were a real treat for me and as an added bonus, I got that wonderous feeling that comes from having supported my fellow writers.
4. See the sights. If you’re attending a conference in a city you don’t usually frequent, take
time after the conference to see the sights, hit a local bar or restaurant, or visit an independent bookstore. If you’ve hit it off with a writing buddy or two, take the initiative and invite them along for the ride. One of my favorite experiences was going to lunch with a group of successful writers at a local “green” cafe. Another conference was by the beach, and after the conference I kicked off my shoes and walked on the sandy shore.
5. Gratitude. Congratulate yourself from stepping away from your desk and out into the writing world by making a list of the positive things you are taking away from the experience (even if you’re feeling like the conference wasn’t the best). Being conscious and mindful of the experience and framing it in a positive light allows you to leave feeling more fulfilled and happier about your time at the conference.
I’m thrilled to have shared some of what I learned during the past year with all of you. If you attend a writing conference in the future, let me know how it goes!
And finally – how do you enjoy the writing conference ride? Haven’t been to a writing conference? No sweat! Let me know a tip or trick you use to relax and have fun in any situation!