Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Why Writers Need to Go to Conferences

I’ve recently returned from my RWA chapter’s annual conference, and while I wondered several times in the previous six months whether I should spend the money and go, I’m glad I decided to attend.

First, no one understands writers like other writers. Writing is a lonely vocation by its very nature. It involves delving into one’s imagination for long periods of introspection which, to most of the members of the human race, looks like daydreaming. If you can’t show them ‘pages,’ they don’t think you’ve had a productive day even if you’ve finally gotten a handle on your main character’s deepest secret. Other writers get that. And they’re willing to talk to you about it. For a whole weekend.

And no one understands a romance writer like another romance writer. Let’s face it: not all writers think alike or value the same elements in their writing. For instance, poets are a whole other breed from fiction writers. And non-fiction writers, while their narratives share some of the same elements as those of fiction writers, their criteria for publication are entirely different. Finally, there’s a reason for genres in fiction—not all genres value the same elements in the same way. So romance writers regularly need to communicate with other romance writers, if only to maintain hope that what they’re doing is valued by others.

Put faces to names. Today’s writer spends a lot of time online, and it’s nice at a conference to finally put a face to the name of the person who’s given you a spot-on critique or a particularly useful piece of advice.

Share a ride, share expenses, share meals. Everybody needs friends, but most of our long-term friends or work friends aren’t writers, so when we get stuck at the one-third point of our current story, they aren’t the people we need to call for help. Going to a conference and sharing the experience with writer friends from your area or from your online community can help form or cement those relationships so you know who to call upon when the writing gets rough.

Gain new knowledge and perspectives on craft, meet editors and agents. Those are the points of attending a conference, and we know we’re going to get that new information, do that networking, but I put this last because while it’s the stated reason we give our families, it’s not necessarily the most important or longest lasting reward.
Next time a conference opportunity comes up and you’re considering the cost vs. the benefit of going, consider the intangibles. There’s nothing like recharging your emotional batteries among like-minded people.