I’ve been slowly getting back to normal in my writing career. I’m blogging regularly, sending out my email newsletters, going to networking meetings. My next book is at the beta readers right now and goes to the editor August 1. As you can imagine, I’m busy.
I haven’t been to a writing conference since last August’s Writer’s Digest Conference. It’s my favorite, and I’m going again this year. This week I registered for a new and very different conference at the end of September, Indie Lab, also produced by F&W Media. And it gave me a chance to reflect on why I’m going.
Although they’re an investment in your career, conferences aren’t cheap. There’s the registration fee, travel, parking, meals, hotel. There are choices to be made, as to sessions and social events. You can pretty much guarantee that by the end, your brain will be mush.
But why exactly did you go? If you don’t know that ahead of time, you’re wasting your money.
I go to WDC not just because I know it’s the one time of the year that I get to spend time with certain friends (although that’s a big selling point). I go because I always learn something new. I go because I’m at a point where I can give advice and encouragement to the terrified writers in line for Pitch Slam. And I know where to get decent cheap Chinese food a couple blocks from the hotel (not to mention where to find the closest Starbucks).
A couple years ago I decided to go to one session that was for fiction writers, a character development workshop. It was one of the most valuable experiences I’ve had in eight years of going to WDC. That might sound odd from someone who writes nonfiction. But I write about people, and the tips I learned that day have helped me bring those people to life. It was an impulsive choice, the result of wanting to step out of my comfort zone. I plan to do more of that this year.
The new conference is focused on the business of being an indie author. I’m not just gearing up for the release of a book I’ve worked on for almost four years: I’m rebooting my writing career. The timing could not be better for me to get back up to speed and be inspired.
So as you consider all the fabulous writing conferences out there, first sit yourself down and ask yourself the hard question:
Why do you want to go to this particular conference, or even better, why do you need to go to this particular conference? Be as specific as you can be: what you expect to learn, who you expect to meet, how you will use your new-found knowledge.
Once you’ve answered that question, and put it in the context of your career, then you will be on your way to improvement in your writing. And someday you, too, will be pleased to direct first-time attendees to the closest Starbucks.