Always Stay Humble & Kind (Lessons from my 1st Writer's Conference)
If you follow me on social media then you'll know that this past weekend I went to Nashville to attend my first ever writer's conference hosted by American Christian Fiction Writers. Almost 600 authors and aspiring writers from all over the nation, and a few from across the globe, gathered together for three days of workshops, fellowship and worship.
It was exhausting and inspiring, overwhelming and life-giving all at the same time! I went into it knowing absolutely no one, which if you know me then you know I was waaay out of my comfort zone. I have found that stepping outside my comfort zone is the best way to step into God's pockets of grace. Time and time again I found myself in awe of the Lord and how he works out the smallest details. Whenever I would start to feel discouraged or overwhelmed he would bring along just the right person to encourage me and speak truth into my life.
I'm still working through everything that I learned in regards to the craft of writing, but wanted to take a minute to hit on some of the things I learned that weren't necessarily covered in a workshop.
1. Just Do It!
Interested in a new hobby or career? Whether it's writing, photography, or running, it's easy to think that there is a certain level of success one must attain before you can call yourself a (fill in the blank). I was hesitant to sign up for the conference, because 1) it requires a decent monetary investment and 2) I worried what people would think of me since I'm nowhere near being published yet. Here's what I learned: no one will take you seriously as a writer, photographer, runner, etc. until you take yourself seriously. You're never going to learn or make connections unless you're willing to take the risk. So sign up for that conference or seminar or pottery making class! Going to ACFW was the best decision I've made all year in regards to my writing.
Pray, pray, pray! It's easy to get overwhelmed with all the details of conference. Practicing your pitch, finding someone to sit with at lunch, wanting to make a good impression with that agent or editor. While these things aren't bad, if that is all you're focusing on then you will burn out and end up disappointed. Take the time before, and even during the conference, to pray. Cast some of those cares on the Lord and ask him to direct your path, to provide the right opportunities, to calm your nerves, whatever it may be! I covered this conference in prayer and time and time again the Lord answered in the most beautiful way.
Is there a specific author whose writing style you love, or who is the rockstar of your genre? Don't be afraid to contact them and ask if they'd be willing to answer a few questions or meet up for coffee so you can pick their brain. Worst case scenario they say no, but if they say yes then you have a wonderful opportunity to make a new connection and learn from someone who has been there before. I had several great learning opportunities at the conference because of this.
4. Say Hi
Authors are people too. While at the conference I saw so many authors whose books I have read and loved. It was intimidating to go up and introduce myself, but everyone I spoke with was so kind and gracious...besides, who doesn't want to hear how much their writing has touched someone? Everyone needs encouragement, even wildly successful authors! So unless they're deep in conversation with someone else, or trying to head to the bathroom, don't be afraid to say hi.
5. Push Yourself
I, like most writers, am an introvert by nature. Which means having to be "on" for 10+ hours a day with little time to myself was rather a daunting prospect. However, I knew that when it was all said and done I'd be so much more grateful that I went out on a limb and joined other writers for dinner as opposed to heading back to the comfort of my room by myself. Push yourself to make the most of your time and not miss out on potential friendships and opportunities to encourage others just because you're tired.
6. Know Yourself
With that being said, it's also important that you know your limits. After being in workshops all day I was beginning to feel overwhelmed and frazzled. So, in the middle of one session I discreetly gathered up my notes and left; thirty minutes sitting in the coffee shop by myself was all I needed to re-energize and get my head on straight. You're not doing yourself any favors if you push yourself too far past your limits.
7. Say Thank You
Don't forget to say thank you. There are so many people working hard to put on a conference this size, from the hotel staff to the authors teaching workshops. Take a minute to acknowledge their work. If you met with an agent or editor, even if it didn't go quite how you planned, be sure to send a thank you note or email after the conference. Manners go a long way.
8. Stay Humble & Kind
One of the biggest things I learned at ACFW came not in a classroom, but from observing the authors around me, those who have by the world's standards "made it". Every author I spoke to was so encouraging, kind, and gracious; whether they were critiquing my manuscript, providing feedback on my pitch, or sitting next to me at lunch, they all made me feel welcomed. It was a wonderful reminder to me that no matter what the future may bring, publishing success or not, there is always room for those who are humble and kind. (This song from Tim McGraw sums it all up pretty well :)
If you're considering joining ACFW or coming to next year's conference I can assure you that you will not find a more encouraging group of writers anywhere! Have any other questions about my conference experience? Leave a comment below or feel free to shoot me an email through my contact page!