I excitedly grabbed a front row seat at the writers’ conference first general session. Since I was early I had time to open the program and choose workshops to attend. I’ve attended many conferences, but still mentally hungry, I look for offerings to satisfy my writer’s appetite. As attendees filled the seats around me, I caught sound bytes of conversation. My attention was drawn, however, to a questioning attendee beside me. “When I mailed my registration, I wondered if I was wasting my time and money. What can the speakers teach those of us who have attended before or are already published?”
Do you sometimes ask yourself the same question? If fact, you may be asking, “Shouldn’t there be “frequent flyer” rewards for repeat attendees? At this point there aren’t, but there are numerous benefits. Here are suggestions for finding them.
Prepare Spiritually Ask God what He wants you to learn this time and focus on reaching new levels with your writing. As writers our desire should be to honor Him by developing the finer points of the craft. He may have given us the desire and the talent, but we must strive to develop our skills. Every time I attend a conference I am at a new place with my writing. Sometimes the emphasis changes, as my life does. With spiritual preparation, an attendee can come away from a conference with new ideas and connections.
Be Ready for New Discoveries While on the writer’s journey, seek the fresh approaches that a new speaker or workshop offers. Familiar subjects are rarely taught in the same manner. For example, at a recent conference I learned about a lead I had never tried. Upon applying it to an in-progress article, I was able to break out of a writing stall, and the article sold. Now, I listen for different ideas and have a new set of questions to ask. I still go home with my head swimming since I cannot assimilate everything that the faculty teaches, but that gives me more reason to return. Even when I attend similar sessions, God always has something new for me. Where else can I get quality training from such a gracious faculty?
Attend a New Genre Pray for wisdom when choosing workshops. You may be surprised to find that you are creative in many areas of writing. Perhaps God has other ways in which to use your talent. He will direct you as you ask for guidance. For example, as a nonfiction writer, I have been attending fiction workshops to help me relate a more compelling story or testimony. However, I never close the door to other ways in which He may want to direct my writing.
Network and Expect Surprises God brings us to a conference for a reason. You may ask yourself these questions: Is He expanding my vision? Is He changing my focus? Am I here to meet a particular author, editor, publisher, or writing friend? Networking is vital since it is becoming more difficult to enjoy success with unsolicited manuscripts. Just as we are networking with editors and publishers, so they are also scouting out new ideas and authors.
Keep In Touch With the Business of Writing Listen while editors and publishers share current information. As the publishing world changes, we must remain savvy to its needs and requirements. A doctor, though skilled in his profession, attends conferences for the same reasons—to stay abreast of new developments and ideas. We minister healing to a hurting world. Our calling demands that we stay as informed as a physician.
Look for Opportunities There really is nothing that can substitute for attending a conference. We could stay at home, shut the door, and sing, “Let the world go away.” But it is the world that we are called to minister unto. That includes the world of writers—our comrades. Go to a conference expecting to learn something new and you will. Leave your heart open to be surprised and you will be. Allow the Holy Spirit to speak and He’ll direct.
Look now for a conference to attend and get ready. The points you earn may not be useful for your next flight, but you will be pointing others to Christ as you perfect your skill and travel with others.