092 – What to Do After a Writers’ Conference

Karen Ball and Erin Taylor Young What to Do After a Writers ConferenceWriters’ conferences are a wonder! You meet so many people, from fellow writers to editors to agents, and they all have great tips and guidance to share with you. But how can you sort through everything after you get home?

Come learn practical steps to avoid feeling overwhelmed, to battle discouragement, and to put what you’ve learned into practice!

We’ve talked about writers’ conferences when we interviewed Kathy Ide and DiAnn Mills. We also talked about how to prepare for a writing conference in The Unexpected Deep of a Writing Conference.

But this time we want to focus on what to do after the conference, once you get home. Why talk about that?

You may be dealing with a spiritual high, or a huge boost of excitement if people loved your work, or a profound sense of discouragement or fatigue. Writing conferences can have a big impact on you and your career, and we want you to handle them wisely, which includes not just preparing well, but following up well. What you do with what you learn at that conference matters.

Key Practices After a writers’ conference

1. Stay connected to God.

Especially at a place like Mount Hermon, which feels so close to God in the redwoods, it’s easy to come home and feel like you’ve lost that connection. But God isn’t only in the redwoods. He’s at your messy house too. He’s in the midst of your family who’ve been waiting for you, and at your workplace.

Being away can give us an opportunity to stop and listen in a way we don’t have at home or elsewhere. But now the challenge is to keep that yearning, that connection with God in the midst of your tiredness from travel and in the midst of daily demands.

  • Set aside time for God, to be thankful, to reflect on what He told you about Himself. We don’t stop and do that nearly enough!
  • Ask God to bring to mind what He wants you to remember most about Himself.
  • Tell your family, your friends, etc., the specific ways God worked at the conference—the divine appointments, the words of encouragement, the big and small ways God showed you His love.
  • Journal about what God showed you, how He spoke to you, the people He spoke through.

The point is to continually keep your focus on God, the One who gave you this task.

2. Take time to decompress and recover from social interaction.

Whether you’re an introvert or not, you need time to recharge from interaction. You’ve expended more energy than you realize.

Chances are you’ve been talking to strangers, making new friends, and putting yourself out there in ways that have pushed you to the limit. Kudos to you for doing that! Now go into your cave for a while. Knowing what you need to do to recover is healthy and good.

  • Plan for recovery time after the conference instead of diving into life as you know it.
  • Consider taking an extra day off work, or plan a later departure from the conference center so you have some time to yourself.
  • Consider a few extra hours of childcare before you come home. You’ll be a better parent if you give yourself a little extra time for solitude.

3. Take time to recover physically.

There’s excitement, energy, and late night sessions followed by early breakfasts at writers’ conferences. You’ll likely feel as if you’re running on pure adrenaline by conference end. Your body needs a chance to recover.

  • Consider the benefits of a recovery day before you get back to daily exercise. Your workout will be more productive if you’re operating from a place of rest rather than a place of stress.
  • Consider hiring someone to clean your house while you’re gone.
  • Consider setting up a grocery order pickup so you don’t have to make a plan and walk through the grocery store when you’re weary.
  • If you pre-make meals for when you’re gone, make one or two extra so you can pull them out the day you get home.

4. Take time to refill your well of creativity.

We have this idea that because it’s a mind thing, creativity must be limitless. It’s not. Creativity requires energy. When you’re socially tired, physically exhausted, and mentally drained, it’s difficult to produce new work. Know the things that nurture your creativity and plan to do them before you try to get back into your writing routine.

5. Take time to NOT reflect on anything you learned at the conference.

Chances are you’ve gotten an overload of information—picture trying to drink from a full-blast fire hose. You may be overwhelmed—that’s normal. It’s okay to go home and keep all your handouts, critiques, notes, whatever, in your bag a few days, or even a couple weeks. You’ll process everything in due time.

Of course, if you’re afraid you’re going to forget something, make a note about it before you leave the writers’ conference, or even on the airplane. But otherwise plan to step back from the overload.

6. After you’ve relaxed and regrouped, then take time to reflect on everything you learned at the conference.

Reprocess your conversations, your evaluations, your critiques in bite-sized pieces at your own pace. There’s no rush. You don’t have to have it all figured out on anyone else’s timeline but yours and God’s.

Realize that editors and agents who may have asked you to submit something to them don’t expect that to come two hours after you get home from the conference. Guess what? They’re decompressing too. They expect you to take the time to incorporate what you’ve learned from the conference into your manuscript. They’re not looking for a hastily created proposal, they’re looking for a thoughtfully created proposal that reflects outstanding craft.

But friends, if someone asked to see your proposal and/or manuscript, please do send it. Don’t waste an opportunity God has given you.

You may have had appointments or critiques with editors and agents who didn’t feel your work was ready, or felt your topic wasn’t for them, and now you’re wondering what to do. This is a time for prayer and reflection.

  • Maybe rejection is much needed redirection. You need to take your work in a different way, or seek a different publisher or agent.
  • Maybe it’s encouragement to work harder on your craft even though you thought it was ready, now you have to take more steps—discouraging but yet encouraging because you can see where to grow.
  • Maybe you need to consider indie publishing because you’ve learned your topic is too niche for a traditional publisher.

This all may feel overwhelming, but if you take time to process it, you can seek God’s guidance and move forward with a plan rather than simply reacting with emotion.

  • Realize that you’ve been exposed to new ideas and new techniques, some of which will work for you and some won’t. They won’t resonate with who you are as a writer or a person. That’s all fine. Your job is to sift through ideas and techniques and discern what works best for you. And ditch the rest—guilt free.

There is no one right way to write, or edit, or begin a career, or publish a book, or build an audience, or market a book. There are many ways. What you need to do is lay what you’ve learned on the altar before God, and ask Him what HIS way is for you.

You’ve also likely been exposed to several varying opinions of your work. One person says you need more anecdotes in your nonfiction work, but the other critiquer didn’t even mention that, but instead encouraged you to consider making the manuscript fiction. Those are possibilities, not directives. It’s up to you to prayerfully reflect on the counsel and opinions you’ve received.

What if someone else thinks your devotionals show wonderful promise? Does that mean you should switch to writing those? Not necessarily. Faculty members are pointing out areas of strengths and areas to improve. They notice different things in manuscripts because they’re different people. It all becomes information to help you find your way. To open your eyes to some of the possible paths before you. Prayerfully consider where God is leading you. Ask yourself: What does my heart resonate with? And go that way.

The bottom line:

Every editor, agent, and faculty member at that conference who gave you guidance and instruction wants the same thing as you—that you walk in submission to God, glorifying and serving Him in everything you do.

We want to hear from you!

What’s your best tip for thriving after a writers’ conference?

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What will help you most after you get home from a writers’ conference?

Thank you!

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Special thanks to our Patreon sponsor of the month, Priscilla L. Sharrow! She’s writing a book about her experience with traumatic brain injury, so watch for that! Learn more about Priscilla at her website priscillasharrow.com.

Thanks also to the folks at Podcast Production Services for their fabulous editing!

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