Writing Conferences are Scary
Attending a writer’s conference can be intimidating. Writing tends to be a solitary activity. There are writing circles, literary groups, classes, and collaberations, but the stereotype of one person sitting alone before a blank page is largely true. The circles, groups, and classes are all supportive gatherings of relatively few people. A writer’s conference is walking into a colloseum of artists.
That is the first reason conferences can be scary. There are lots of people put together in enclosed spaces. This isn’t the coffee shop offering free wi-fi crowded. This is a thousand or so people packing a ballroom crowded. It eases off into thirty to one hundred writers in a breakout session. There are a lot of names to try an remember, business cards to receive, and elevator pitches to be interested in. Everybody has their own project. And each person wants you to know about theirs.
This leads to the other major reason for conference intimidation. Everyone there is successful. That is, everyone else there is successful. You might be starting out. You don’t have three books published, or ten short stories appearing in journals. You are there for warm juice, powdered eggs, and to learn new plot techniques. It is very easy to get the impression that the thousand other people at a gathering already figured it out.
After a few conferences I figured out only some of all that is true. There are a lot of people that go to these things. There are a lot of writers out there. And that is a great thing. I, and you, are not alone despite the popular images of lone figures hunched over keyboards in ill-lit rooms. We can share ideas, tales of what it is like to try and sell works, and learn what it takes to craft a good story. And it will seem like everyone there published a book. They will be more than happy to whip a copy out for you. Remember, they are not bragging. They are not only proud of their efforts but selling their books. There are a lot of books out there. It takes sales to get noticed. So when sitting down at a table with a plate full of hors d’oeuvres the person pulling up to the empty seat taking the book out is just taking the next step. Seeing the bound paper is off-putting, especially if you don’t have a stack with your name on it, but they sat in your seat probably not too long ago.
Writers conferences are intimidating. For writers, the extroverted kind or, the more common, solitary variety, they are well worth the effort. Providing instruction, connections, and inspiration get togethers to talk over the craft provides the more immediate gratification writing can often lack.