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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Psychology Behind Writer's Conferences

I've now been two five Christian writer's conferences. Not much in the way of things, I suppose, but enough to have a very solid feel for what goes on. Truthfully, it's a fascinating study in human behavior and motivation.

What's the basic motivation for attending a writer's conference? Easy. Publication. No one goes to a conference, paying over $500 to attend, not counting cost of travel, without having some very big motivation to do so. Seeing your name in print is one such motivation.

Interesting, though, is that you're surrounded by 700 other people (at large conferences) who have the exact same motivation and dream.

This tends to play itself out in two main reactions that I noticed, which are like flip sides of a coin:

1) Camaraderie. 

Hanging out after hours with Janice Boekhoff, Meg Mosely, Rosslyn Elliot, Sarah Forgrave, Kathy Buchanan, me, Katie Ganshert, and Krista Phillips.

It's truly magical being with like-minded people (and most of the magic happens in the bar after the workshops are over). Writer's are odd folk. The world in general doesn't get us, but we certainly get each other. Fellowship can be so sweet. Encouragement, praying for one another, cheering others on for their successes and good news.

2) Competition.

When your friend, who writes the same genre you do gets closer to publication (i.e., gets an agent/editor interested in submission, wins a contest, gets a contract, etc), sometimes that might seem like one step further away for yourself. Or when a buddy has an extraordinary talk with an agent while you never even managed to catch the agent's eye....jealousy can rear it's ugly head.

[An aside here...multiple times during the ACFW conference I found myself likening the after-hours drinks and talks to junior high dating. You want to "go steady" with an agent (i.e., get them to represent you), and many times relying on people who know that agent is helpful. It's like having a friend take a note to the boy you like and say, "Will you represent (i.e. like) me? Check yes or no." Of course, you'd include the little boxes like we did in middle school. More than one author laughed at this, b/c it's quite accurate.]

The Bottom Line

Just as I would tell a client that their worth is not defined by a relationship, a past trauma, mistakes, or perceived weaknesses, I'd like to tell writer's that your worth is not defined by whether an agent takes a second look at you or an editor asks for a submission. You're not defined by whether you have speaking engagements, sky-high Amazon ratings, or 1000s of followers of facebook "likes."

In fact, you're not even defined by whether your writing is even good or not. My daughter writes that she loves me, and it's barely legible and certainly not spelled correctly. But the piece of paper (bound or not) doesn't define her. It's the thought behind the writing that counts, and those thoughts, for Christian writers, come from God.

It's God who defines us, and we write for Him. Even if our writing never sees the light of day, if we write to fulfill the calling He's placed on us, then you can imagine God sitting by a cozy fire in heaven, curled up with your manuscript, enjoying it. This should be enough...and if it's not, that should be your prayer.

Let's Analyze

Have you been to a writer's conference? What did you think of my metaphor of flip sides of the same coin? Do you agree? Is jealousy in writing something you struggle with? What words of encouragement do you have that you feel led to share?