Attending writers conferences over the past couple of years has had a huge impact on my writing journey and helped me in multiple ways. I’m providing three of the most important benefits to me that helped not only with my writing, but also my understanding of myself and my past life choices.
Let’s face it. Writers can sometimes be an insecure lot, at least when it comes to their writing. They wonder sometimes if what they’ve written is good enough to go out into the world. Receiving affirmation can be really important and mean the difference between getting something published, or not.
In 2017, when my book was about halfway finished, I attended the San Francisco Writers Conference. This conference is held every February over the course of several days. The schedule each day is jam-packed with multiple competing sessions led by writers, agents, editors, and other publishing experts. There was so much I wanted to learn, it was sometimes difficult to choose one session in each time slot. I entered their writing contest (under my previous name) by submitting what was at that time the first chapter of my book (the chapter eventually ended up later in the book). It didn’t win a grand or first prize, but it was runner up for non-fiction, which was hugely affirming for me and gave me the encouragement I needed to finish the book. I had been working on it for four years at that point.
I’m attending the Nonfiction Writers Association (NFAA) Fall Writers Conference this week, and–WOW–it has really switched on my light bulb. My NFAA membership allowed me three free coaching sessions before the conference started, one of which was with the NFAA founder and author of numerous books (some of which I’ve mentioned in previous posts), Stephanie Chandler.
I had been feeling as though my marketing efforts were scattered and floundering, like I was running in a hundred different directions all at once without a focused and strategic plan. Stephanie helped to identify a more narrow, targeted audience more appropriate for my book so that I won’t keep spinning my wheels with marketing efforts that are too broad. She also providing some helpful marketing suggestions and other advice.
But there’s more. I was laid off from my job as an instructional designer this summer, and I’ve been thinking hard about what kind of work I want to do next. I attended a session with Barbara River, author of Making a Living Without a Job and founder of the Joyfully Jobless website and seminars. Barbara shared her own struggles with figuring out what she wanted to do for a living and how she grew her audience and business. When she said she liked to do a lot of things but found she didn’t want to do them every day but rather on her own schedule, my light bulb really switched on. That is so me!
In fact, that was one of the reasons that started me on my five-year motorhome adventure in my book, Confessions of a Middle-Aged Runaway. I was tired of running the hamster wheel of making a living in jobs that no longer interested me or provided any kind of fulfillment. Here is an excerpt from the first chapter of my book where I talk about my aversion to routine:
“Routine is not my friend, and I need new experiences to satisfy my curiosity, restlessness, and thirst for adventure. Too much of things staying the same makes me feel like a caged animal, pacing back and forth, the need for movement all-consuming.”
I am not the type of person that can be happy working the same job for 20 or 30 years. It’s just not in my DNA. I admire people who can do that, I’m just not one of them.
Barbara talked about having multiple sources of income instead of just one daily job, which is what I’ve been thinking makes sense for me. So the NFAA writers conference really gave me clarity on how I should focus my marketing efforts, what kind of work I need, and why heading out on a five-year motorhome adventure was such a great thing for me to do. I also got a ton of great information, ideas, and tips from the other conference presenters and coaches.
We’ve all heard about the importance of networking. I’ve met authors, agents, editors, and book coaches, some of whom I’m still in contact with, that continue to provide information and advice that has helped me. Some of the topics include writing book proposals, pitching to agents, how to revise my book, how to decide whether to self-publish or go with a traditional publisher, and ways to market my work. We need support from other people in the publishing industry, and writers conferences are a great way to connect with those people.