3 Things I Learned at My First Conference

How the Tribe Conference Helped Me Understand What People Have Been Saying All Along

Colleen Valles
Sep 22, 2017 · 4 min read
Photo by Matheus Ferrero on Unsplash

This past weekend, I attended my very first conference ever.

As I boarded the plane in San Francisco, I was excited to get to Franklin, Tenn., just outside of Nashville, where a group of writers like me — my tribe — were gathering for the Tribe Conference.

The brainchild of Jeff Goins, my teacher and mentor, the Tribe Conference is aimed at helping writers build their platforms, grow their audiences and get their messages out. You know, it's aimed at helping people change the world. Cool, right?

Exactly. So that's why I was so excited. Plus I would get to see some old friends, meet new ones, and, importantly, get some much-needed sleep. (I'm the mother of an 11-month-old. Sleep is super-exciting to me.)

I thought I knew what to expect: inspiration, encouragement, connection. And I got all those things, but I also got something I hadn't expected: understanding.

I'm not always the quickest on the uptake, and when it comes to blogging and writing, I can be downright dense. But after 2.5 days in a room with a couple hundred writers, some things that I had heard before finally planted themselves in my brain. For some reason, things clicked and I finally got it.

Here are the three things that took root. Maybe you already know them and just need a reminder or maybe if you see them here, you'll understand them better as well.

"Make your mess your message"

This nugget of wisdom from Ishita Gupta echoes what we've all heard before: "write what you know."

Another way I've heard this advice is when somebody says that people may have heard your general philosophy before, but nobody can put your spin on it. Only you can do you, and only you can tell your story.

Academically, I get that, but after hearing Ishita illustrate her messy life and how she has used it to tell her own story and help others, I finally got it.

My messy life is my own, and it colors the way I see the world. That unique viewpoint influences my writing and can help others relate to me and to what I have to say.

That may seem obvious, but clearly I had to hear it a lot to have it really sink in. I thought about what spurred me on to write about slowing down and simplifying to live a more creative life, and it dawned on me that my journey could help others. This advice led me to narrow the focus of my blog even more, which I'm hoping means I'll be able to help more people.

Got it.

Show up every day

This came from Sean McCabe, who spent hours practicing his art before hitting it big on the handlettering circuit.

His message was to do some work every day, whether you want to or not, whether the muse is with you or not. Just show up.

Writers often refer to this as getting their "butt in the chair."

Shaunta Grimes, who also spoke, gave everyone a tip that has helped her write numerous novels. She encouraged people to set the minimum amount of time each day that they could write. For her, that's 10 minutes. It's such a small amount of time that it's easier to do it than to feel guilty about not doing it every day. So each day, she sets out to write for 10 minutes. She often goes longer, but some days, it's just 10 minutes, and that's OK.

Little by little, you make progress if you show up every day.

I had heard this advice from Shaunta before, but never really put it into practice. This time; however, I visualized what it would be like to write for 10 minutes each day. I tried to imagine where in my day I would find that time, and the truth is, I have 10-minute chunks everywhere.

The thing is, I'm a mom; I work full-time; and my family is long distance, so my fiancé isn't around to help me every day with the kids. And still, I have AT LEAST one 10-minute block of time in each day.

I'll take slow, steady progress over not doing anything because I don't have two hours together to write. So since the conference, I have been showing up every day, and I plan to keep doing so because it's really not that hard.

Vanquish your inner dork goblin

Marsha Shandur made me aware of what a "dork goblin" was. It's the person inside of you who comes out when you're in an awkward social situation.

Perhaps your dork goblin babbles uncontrollably. Perhaps your dork goblin's mind goes blank and you can't speak.

My dork goblin sweats.

My dork goblin also has no filter and can't remember names, so when I actually ran into Marsha at the airport I loudly blurted out "Hey! You're from the conference!"

Luckily, she's a kind, understanding soul, because I was full-on possessed by my dork goblin.

OK, so this last piece of advice was not something I'd ever heard, but really it was just as handy as all the other pieces of advice. Now that I know what my dork goblin is capable of, I can keep her calm, hopefully.

I'm not sure what to do about the sweating, though.

So that's what I learned at my first ever conference — how to understand advice I've received before, but haven't really heard.

If you get a chance, I recommend checking out the conference next year. Maybe my dork goblin and I will run into you. I'll be the girl sweating and saying whatever comes into my head.

Colleen Valles

Written by

Helping executives establish themselves as thought leaders in sustainability. Freelance writer. Fiction, fountain pens & tea cups. www.colleenvalles.com

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