The Writer’s Digest Conference took place a few weeks ago, and I was thrilled to attend with the DIY MFA team. Writing conferences are a wonderful way to invest in your career—they can improve your craft, grow your writing support network and connect you to publishing pros who could end up helping your career along later.
The Writer’s Digest Conference is a stellar place for all three of these benefits. It was also both exhilarating, and exhausting—as good conferences usually are. Like any good conference it was jam-packed with great nuggets of wisdom.
Here are my top five takeaways:
1) “It’s a marathon, it really is.”
After Emily St. John Mandel’s closing keynote on the last day of the conference, I waited in line to get my copy of Station 11 signed and told her how much it meant to me to hear her say that it takes her roughly two and a half years to write each book. This was her response.
With one book in a developing series out for sale, I’ve become fixated on writing pace as I pressure myself to get the rest of the series out for fans. It’s easy to get caught up in Stephen King’s 2,000-word-a-day pace or Chuck Wendig’s seemingly constant new releases.
But not everyone writes this way, and not everyone has to. This was a great reminder to write at a pace that works for me.
2) Treat Service Vendors Like Partners
This came up in a talk about publicity with bestselling author Emily Liebert. She advised writers to be persistent with publicists—don’t just think that you’ve hired them to do a job, and now you don’t have to think about it.
It’s best to touch base with a publicist (or any ongoing professional you hire) on a regular basis—at least weekly. And don’t sit on your laurels—take ownership of your author brand by bringing your own ideas and input to the table. You are always a key partner in shaping your author career, regardless of what you have hired someone else to do.
3) Honor Your Reality
This nugget of wisdom is from our own Gabriela. She brought this up throughout the DIY MFA Insiders Program sessions, and it’s definitely worth the repetition.
Every writer struggles to find that balance between the writing and the other demands in our lives—whether it be work, family, promotion, or something else altogether. Be persistent in your writing, but also be realistic about the need to balance it with the rest of your life. After all, without all those life experiences, what is there to write about in the first place?
4) Learning Happens Everywhere
The Writer’s Digest Conference is an amazing place. It’s stuffed with hungry writers and awesome publishing professionals, and everyone is eager to talk shop.
Anywhere you go, from group lunches to cocktail hours to the line for the bathroom, is a potential opportunity to learn from someone else. I had some fascinating conversations in very unexpected place at the conference.
5) Even A Conference Full of Introverts Can Out-talk Me
The more conferences I go to, the more I learn my own limits for social time. Even at the Writer’s Digest Conference, where temperaments are decidedly bent toward the introverted side, I was impressed by others’ ability to keep on chatting it up while my own energy drained to emergency empty.
It can be hard to peel myself away from the action, but I’ve learned how incredibly important it is to look out for my need to recharge while at a conference—it’s okay to check out a little early at the end of the day if it means you’ll be ready to go again when morning comes. Really!
By day, Emily Wenstrom, is the editor of short story website wordhaus, author social media coach, and freelance content marketing specialist. By early-early morning, she is E. J. Wenstrom, an award-winning sci-fi and fantasy author whose debut novel Mud was named 2016 Book of the Year by the Florida Writers Association.