Friday, April 16, 2010
On hectic weeks, Batman, and attending conferences as a writer
Here's the tip: Don't go with a big plan...some kind of self-imposed deadline...A PUBLISHING GOAL. Instead, before you get to the registration desk, take a serious look at your work. Do you have something ready to submit? Or is this not the book, not the time? Let that be okay! If you do have what you feel is a hot manuscript, understand that your dream editor may not be sitting at the faculty table and, even if he/she is, you may not have the opportunity to connect (or you may just be shy). Also fine! In sum, don't attend conferences with some kind of label hanging over you like "aspiring published writer," instead...
Attend as a writer...a person who loves words and books and sitting like a mole in a dark room tapping on computer keys (okay, yes, my family sometimes does refer to me as "the mole"). Skip over a couple of those mortifying "First Pages" sessions. Don't attend every agent and editor's "What I Want to Read" presentation. Hit a few, but make sure to leave some time for listening to writers talk about their craft. Even if you can't draw a stick figure, spend a session with an illustrator and learn about that creative process. Ask questions. Buy some books by your idols and stand in line to have them signed. Look around the room at the wonderful people who populate your writing community and be grateful for their company on this difficult journey. Let the conference wash over you like rain, making you feel refreshed and renewed (and letting all the dirt of discouragement just dribble away).
This attitude has yielded me more joy, more friendships and, frankly, more success than the eager-beaver approach ever did. I think I began attending conferences in this way about the same time that I stopped caring if my book would ever be published (save that for after you write those glorious words "the end") and started writing my stories just the way I wanted to--so passionately that, as I type, my breath comes faster and my bones kind of ache. I like to think the novels are better, too.