Sunday, July 26, 2009

Of Groups and Conferences, Pros and Cons

A couple of weeks ago, I attended the first meeting of the Idaho Writers Guild. Fascinating and fun, but also amazing how much dedicated and professional talent there is in Idaho, the state with the least population of all 50. After a couple of hours, I returned home energized and invigorated about my writing career. On August 6, tomorrow, I head out to the Willamette Writers Conference for four fun-filled days of pitching agents. Or at least fun for me.

There are writers out there who despise attending any event or joining any group. Often true introverts, these authors point out that conferences and groups take away a lot of valuable writing time and energy. This can be true. The last few weeks I have been taking time to prep my manuscript, my pitch, my wardrobe, etc. and probably doing much more than I need--I'm a writer and being neurotic is required.

However, that time, for me has done several useful things. It has re-initiated and reinvigorated my enthusiasm for my craft and w.i.p. I've had myriad epiphanies about my work, both current and future. I've made a large number of wonderful, supportive contacts, fellow authors and other creative people. People who feed my creative spark, sometimes into a roaring blaze. And will meet many more this weekend. I always return from a conference energized to work and work harder, faster and more effectively than before. So for me, some group participation and some conference attendance are useful tools.

One point, don't make the groups and conferences and workshops become the writing. It's easier than you might think to replace the difficult work of writing, just plain writing and writing, with the far easier and entertaining activity of a group or whatever. It feels like you're working, progressing. And to a certain extent, that's true. But nothing replaces write, write, write. I suspect this is true of other creative disciplines as well, hence the "disciplines".

So, dear readers, what do you think about attending conferences? Joining groups? Does it help you? Or the opposite?

And I'll be back on Monday with a report on my experiences.


Anonymous said...

I think attending conferences and workshops is good, as long as it's done judiciously. Select one or two really good ones, with stellar speakers or pertinent classes. Some people are workshop junkies, and as my friend jas says, if you're at a conference, you're not writing.

I've joined three writing groups but moved too soon each time to see if they would be useful. I'll try again here.

Enjoy!! Give my best to Oregon!

Dave King said...

I read your opening lines twice thinking you had written that the population of Idaho was 50! I shall not add a lot to that, for obvious reasons! One thing that did resonate with me though, was the advice not to replace the writing with the group. It sure is easy to do. Fine post, crap reader!

Swubird said...


I like conferences and groups. I've been a member of a few associations during my life. Like you said, you meet lot of people, get a lot of education, and you can even get some new and refreshing some ideas. It's great to network and take advantage of others people's brains for a change.

Happy trail

Conda Douglas said...

Hi Beth--yes, writers' groups can be helpful--or not, that's for another posting. And Oregon was drier and warmer than Boise when I was there.

Conda Douglas said...

Ah, Dave, I too sometimes get "lost" in the reading and misread. And yes, this is my last "biggie" for awhile, onto the writing!

Conda Douglas said...

Swu--that was the best part of this conference--meeting some great people. Writers, overall, are fun and fantastic!

Lynda Lehmann said...

I agree that it must not replace the ardor of writing. Balance in all things, including introverted and extroverted activities.

Also, being in the wrong group can murder your writing dreams, if the people are either negative or too genre-biased. For instance, some who are romance oriented my not validate your need to write sci fi. But sometimes the "right group" is just not around the corner!

Conda Douglas said...

True, both true, Lynda! And I've been lucky in that the huge majority of groups I've joined have supported and encouraged my writing and my writing career.

Helen Ginger said...

I think conferences can be invigorating and informative and a great way to network. I'm going to try a first for me - an online conference. Attend it in my PJs. We'll see how it goes!

Straight From Hel

Conda Douglas said...

Online is fun, Helen, no makeup and no travel arrangements!