As writers, we tend to be shy or introverted. We write in isolation in our corner offices, at our dining room tables, or in coffee shops. Although there might be people in the same room, we are effectively alone in our minds. Sitting there by ourselves we are busily creating new worlds, drafting creative essays, or daringly taking on the world with our words.
At the same time, whether we are extroverts or introverts we need to be around other creatives for socializing, inspiration, encouragement, and personal and professional growth. This is why I’m addicted to attending conferences and workshops, both in my community and outside of it.
Large conferences can be daunting for an introvert unless you prepare yourself ahead of time. I love large conferences for the vast amount of information and opportunities available. There are usually half a dozen or so sessions to choose from at any given time and slots to meet with agents, editors, and best selling authors.
With large gatherings you not only need to prioritize your schedule, but you also need to prioritize your energy levels. I recommend taking a good look at the conference schedule for all your options. Then pick a primary and secondary choice for every hour. It’s important not to limit yourself to just one choice because there may be times when a certain workshop or panel fills up. There have been many times when I hurried to a panel only to find it standing-room only.
After you decide on options for every hour, you must make sure you have enough breaks for food and rest. The big conferences offer so much value that we tend to want to experience it all. But you’ll get burnt out that way, especially if you tend to be an introvert where you need to recharge in isolation.
It’s kind of like Disneyland for writers. You want to see and experience it all.
Having your schedule organized ahead of time, and allowing for breaks should help with conference burn out. Keeping a flexible mindset also makes a big difference when things don’t go according to your plan. There will be times when a panel you really want to listen to gets canceled, or maybe it isn’t quite what you expected. In these cases just remember that there are many other opportunities to experience. This is the beauty of large conferences.
Small conferences, workshops, and masterclasses can also be amazing. Smaller groups are also less daunting for an introvert. You can still learn and be around new people, but not get so overwhelmed at too many options. Or too much socializing.
When choosing a small conference make sure it’s a good fit for your needs and your personality. The small conferences tend to be a lot more focused on the atmosphere and social portion of the gathering.
While one of my friends might like conferences that start with yoga or breathing exercises, I tend to like ones that are less spiritual. When I say spiritual I’m not talking about a religious theme, although there are conferences like that. What I mean is that some conferences are designed with a different universal mindset or spiritual nature, which is totally fine for some people. It’s all up to what kind of feel we’re comfortable with.
The other consideration in deciding on a small conference is your comfort level with socializing. Large conferences have more people, but you can also just blend into the crowd. Whereas, smaller conferences make it harder to hide from other people. Although there is a higher probability you will need to socialize closely with other people at smaller conferences, it’s a more intimate setting to do so.
Attending large conferences helped prepare me socially for the smaller, more intimate settings. At the large conferences, we have what we happily call Bar Con. This is where at the end of the conference day we head to the bar where we share drinks and food with famous authors, editors, and agents. It’s a great low key way to socialize as a group and one-on-one with the person sitting next to you.
Whichever kind of conference or workshop you enjoy attending, they are important for us as writers. Not only do we get out and socialize with others who are like-minded, but we also gain opportunities for learning and inspiration. Just as lawyers and educators attend continuing education classes, so should we as writers. It’s important to always be open to learning and growing in our creativity.