A Writers’ Conference is a Writers’ Conference is a Writers’ Conference
NO! NO! NO!
I have attended more than a handful of writer conferences and institutes. (The worst ones were for high school teachers by high school teachers who thought they had the perfect answers to how to get students to write better. My notes for those conferences usually ended up as doodles on paper with no words or new ideas.)
Which ones you ask? One of the biggies: The Association of Writers and Writing Programs. One held by a university that also offers a masters program in creative writing. And one offered by a former writing magazine editor.
Really, the names aren’t important. What is important is that initially they were all valuable in my education as a writer, BUT I have out-grown what they have to offer. (Several of my writer friends have indicated the same.)
I have several emails that I get from various groups about this writing convention and that writing convention. I’ve been pouring over them for the last year and a half looking for something, but not knowing what that something was. I get writing magazines in my snail mail box and check the advertisements for workshops and conventions.
Several years ago, I happened on Jeff Goins early ventures to inspire writers to write. I signed up for his email; I got myself into some of his “trial” groups; and …
(this next statement has nothing to do with Jeff Goins or his writings and groups)
I RARELY COMPLETED ANYTHING.
(My insight on why that was is coming clear as I read Finish by John Acuff who was one of the speakers at Tribe Conference 2017.)
BUT, in an effort to find what I was looking for in a writer community and writer conference,
I get excited about going to conferences where writers get together, but I also get withdrawn. I tell myself that all the people there are better writers than I am. I ask myself what I think I’m doing going to a writers’ conference. I get psyched, but I also get panicked.
I can’t remember when I registered for Tribe Conference 2017, but I do know that there were several months of wait time.
And wait, I did.
I put Tribe Conference 2017 on my calendar and waited like I usually waited, excited but anxious. You know the kind where you register and if you don’t put it on your calendar you’ll miss it because there is no contact from anyone connected with the conference.
But waiting for Tribe Conference 2017 wasn’t the same kind of wait I had experienced for other conferences.
At some point, several weeks before the date of the conference, I started receiving emails from Jeff Goins about how excited he was that I was going to be attending the conference, that he was excited about the speakers, that he was excited about the topics and what I would walk away with.
These emails excited me.
Then, a couple of weeks before the conference, I was asked to join the Facebook page Tribe Conference 2017. The concept was simple. Visit the Facebook page, get to know some of the people so it doesn’t feel like you are walking into a group of strangers, and set up a meeting time with some of the people you connect with on Facebook.
Seriously? Get to know people BEFORE a conference? WHAT A GREAT IDEA.
In addition to the emails and Facebook group, someone arranged a meet and greet at the Frothy Monkey in Franklin so we could drink coffee, talk, and get to know people face to face BEFORE the conference began.
Coffee? Talk? No pressure? I’m in.
MY TAKE AWAYS
My greatest take away from this weekend conference was motivation. It was the first conference in a long time where the speakers and the topics felt inspiring – motivating – like if they could do “it” so could I. So many times, I feel like I know the topic the speaker is addressing (I taught in the high school English department for 34 years.) and tune them out by doodling. Or, the person speaking has no idea of how to make a presentation (One of the courses I taught was public speaking.)
Here are some thoughts and learnings that I recorded in my notes and scribblings –
“Define you audience by the problems the reader faces.”
“You want more readers? Be the weirdo in the room.”
But the best one for me –
“Own and be proud of the work you produce.”
I have silenced my own “weirdo in the room” personality and somewhere lost pride in my work. This was a terrifying realization. I decided that that needed to change, that I need to re-discover my weirdo and re-gain the pride in my work.
“If you do the work, you will see progress.”
But, it is his concept of “EXQUISITE ATTENTION” that gnaws at my soul. I need to give whatever I am doing at any given time “exquisite attention” because it is “exquisite attention” that creates zones of possibility and trust.
I have found my Dork Goblin (Thank you, Marsha for bringing her into existence.) and her name is Darlene. Darlene is the soul that sits on the outside of the group of people and doesn’t meet or talk to the people at a conference (or anywhere else for that matter) because she is afraid of being seen as that over-the-top, ridiculous-looking fan.
Because of Marsha’s presentation, which included Dork Goblins and what to do with them, I was able to introduce myself to Jeff Goins and Marsha and numerous other people at Tribe Conference 2017 and tell my Dork Goblin, “I’ve got this.”
“Love the mess – Embrace the mess.”
So many times I avoid the mess, the struggle, the problem. Her message has me motivated to complete my novel, Finding Elizabeth (new working title that many at the conference thought was good) rather than avoid some of the messes in my life that are mirrored in the novel. (I have a habit of taking bits and pieces of my life and the lives of those who have existed in my life to create my characters.)
“Do one thing that breaks the rules.”
I worked at this conference to break my own rule of staying safely in my own little world and just observing everyone else. The best was when I promised myself on the drive to Franklin on Sunday morning that I would sit at a different table after each break. That way I could get to know more people.
“Show up every day for 2 years.”
I am working to show up every day as a writer. I have a page in my “one notebook” that lists the date and gives me space to check off or write the word count down. I can show up and write for at least 10 minutes each and every day. I rarely go anywhere without my “one notebook” so if there is always somewhere that I can put words to paper.
I am taking her challenge to focus and finish. (I secretly like dares. It reminded me of my mother’s voice behind me when she would say, “You can’t do that too.” It was a challenge to take that “thing” on and do my best.)
As Leo spoke, I realized that I had become a writer without a why and without a passion, and I’m sure my audience, what little audience I had, found me lacking in accountability, connection, and community.
In stressing the importance of writing each and every day, he drove home that I am cheating myself of becoming the writer I know I can be.
Dan’s concept of investing in myself is not something new to me, but something that I have lost over time.
- Return to Tribe Conference 2018
- Buy a craft or success book each month AND read it. (This month, September, I am reading Finish by Jon Acuff.)
- Seriously look for a coach or mentor
How to last? His list is something that makes sense.
- Do the Work
When talking about effectiveness, he gave us this statement: “This is a ___ that does ___ for ___.” It is a sentence that will be going up on the wall in my writing studio.
A final inspiration to show up and get the work done. That procrastination and perfection should not stand in my way. I invested in his book, Finish, and began it as I began writing this article.
Thanks to Jeff and his crew for organizing this conference and to Jeff and all the speakers at this year’s Tribe Conference.