I am at a writers conference!!!!!!!
(In case you can’t tell, I’m excited)
The conference I’m at is the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference, or BRMCWC for short (not that the acronym is much shorter than the actual name). It’s an annual conference of about 500 writers who identify as Christian/write Christian pieces to gather and network, attend workshops, and encourage each other on our writing journeys.
I first attended years ago, when I was still in high school, and honestly it made me feel a bit overwhelmed. But since then, I’ve been to a couple more writers (and academic) conferences, and feel much better prepared. I also came with one of my best friends and it’s her first conference, so of course I’m excited!
But that begs the question: How do you survive your first conference? Here are a couple tips I’ve gathered through the years.
1. Check the schedule ahead of time
Particularly at large conferences like BRMCWC, there will be multiple workshops/practicums occurring at the same time. You don’t want to A) choose randomly and end up in a workshop on how to write nonfiction articles when you’re a sci-fi writer, or B) miss a class you would’ve wanted to go to. You want to know what you’re going to ahead of time, and you want to know it’s worth your time. It’s also a good idea to pick two or three classes in the same time slot to highlight, because there’s a chance something might come up and your first choice of class gets cancelled.
2. Don’t go to everything
Some people are extremely tolerant to high-stress events with a lot of sensory impact – I, for one, am not. While a part of me wants to go to a class in every single time slot (not to mention attend all the other events), I know that would exhaust me. To get the most out of my time here, I have to actually…not attend some things. (I know, it sounds paradoxical.) But that’s okay. You are at the conference to help you, and if you’re going to be in a mind-numbing haze from attending three different workshops in one day, then don’t attend that many – maybe attend just one or two.
3. Set aside time to network
You’re here with a bunch of other writers! You want to talk about your work, they want to talk about theirs. All those anxious people like me out there, trust me—it’s a lot easier to talk to complete strangers when you can just cut and paste the question, “So, what brought you here?” to literally anyone and they are more than happy to answer.
4. Set aside time to write
Yes, you’re at a conference to learn, and it may feel like you can write at any other time, but come on – you’re at a writing conference. You’re going to hear things, talk to people, learn techniques that you just have to use. Inspiration is literally floating through the air! So don’t feel guilty if you choose to skip a class or the keynote address to go write – that’s what you’re here for.
5. Look out for the God appointments
Lastly, but most importantly, be aware of God’s purpose for you being at the conference. We might come with set plans and expectations, but God has plans too – don’t be so stressed about giving out your 100th business card that you miss the opportunity to talk to the person he’s placed in front of you. And maybe you walk away having only given out 99 business cards (or zero) – guess what? That’s okay. Because God’s plan is much bigger than ours, and you can be sure that He accomplished his purpose, even if you can’t see it yet.