A writers conference is a magical, wonderful event. Writers conferences put you in contact with authors, agents, publishers, editors, and, of course, other writers like you. Then there are all of the classes and panels to teach you new skills or help you hone the ones you have.
Even these days, where most conferences are being held online, you can gain a lot from the experience. But still, all good things must come to an end. When the last class has ended, the closing ceremony has inspired, and you pass out the last good-byes, then it’s back to the real world.
Enter the real world.
Time to get back to work. Only sometimes getting back to work after a writers conference is difficult or even impossible. Why? You learned so many new skills, you have so many new exercises to try on your WIP, you’re so inspired by the successes of the people you’ve met. But you can’t write.
Having all of this new awareness leads to over-thinking, to over-criticizing. Yes, you have notes on a new skill or ten, but you haven’t practiced them, haven’t internalized them. You haven’t made them your own. You look at this cool new skill and you go to use it—and you don’t know how. Yes, logically you know (you have notes!), but your writer’s intuition needs practice first.
You are not alone.
Believe it or not, this is a common occurrence. Basically, a writers conference increases your awareness of writing and the writing world very abruptly. Suddenly you have pages of notes of new skills, new goals, new aspirations. You’re aware of things you could be doing (or even ‘should’ be doing) with regards to your writing. And your writer’s intuition hasn’t had time to catch up.
For example, just because someone explains their own winning strategies for chess does not mean you simply go out and start winning games. It doesn’t even mean you would suddenly play better games. You would need to play many games of chess, and even do poorly, so you can improve your ‘chess intuition’. It’s the same thing with writing.
So what should you do?
First off, understand that you did not get worse at writing. Let me pause and say this again: you did not get worse at writing. You’re at the exact same level you were before the conference. It’s the sudden increase of awareness that makes you think you’ve gotten worse. The good news is that you now have the opportunity to grow into that new awareness. Since you’re aware of places you’re lacking, then you go to work training yourself. Try the exercises, poke at the skills, play with the advice, and forgive yourself for a lack of perfection.
And as you thank about what you learned from the writers conference, find the bits that work for you and throw away the rest. Don’t try and internalize everything. You are at the perfect point in your writing journey, and you can expand your writer’s intuition, but that doesn’t mean you need to (or should) take everything. Some of it will not work for your style, and some of it is not what you need to work on at this time. And that is perfectly alright.
What you want to do is go back to writing the way you always do, and work on incorporating the new skills where you can. You’ll make mistakes, and your writing might make you cringe. But remember: this is normal, you will get past it, and you will be a better writer for it. Growth and learning do not happen when things are beautiful and easy. You will get to a place where you are again happy with your writing. And then it will be time to go to another writers conference and the process will start all over again.
Laura Highcove has a degree in computer science, which is obviously why she is a fantasy writer. She is influenced by anime, video games, table-top gaming, programming, horses, and Norse mythology in no particular order. She currently lives in beautiful Blacksburg, Virginia with her computer, two cats, and husband. Her psychic abilities have not yet developed, but she remains hopeful. If you’d like to learn more about her, head over to her website and sign up for her newsletter (and get a free short story) here.