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The 3 Acts of Attending a Conference Alone.

Last week I attended the Festival of Faith and Writing in Grand Rapids. Basically a conference for writers or people in the writing world. I’m not sure if any of you have attended an event like this alone, but it can make you feel many things (or maybe it just made me feel many things).

Background

The Festival of Faith and Writing started in 1990 on the campus of Calvin College. In their own words, “The Festival has brought both new and established talent to speak about a variety of issues related to faith, ethics, justice, and the craft of storytelling.” In my words, “The Festival was like the internet came to life and all of the bloggers and authors I follow were attending. Attendees were people that have published books, want to publish books, publish books or help people get books published and maybe people who just love the writing world. Regardless, it brings together lots of great people who care about faith and writing and value creativity.”

Act I : I’m leaving early.

I felt like I did not belong. Every where I looked people were hugging, saying how it was great to see each other and it seemed everyone had a someone. I just had me. It was like everyone knew the drill, everyone had published a book, that everyone was a lot farther along than me.

I realized that I’m really forgettable. I tried to network, I tried to meet people that first day and everyone was nice, but we just exchanged pleasantries and they moved on.

“How am I ever supposed to make it in life if people forget about me as soon as they meet me?”  I think while I Google, “How not to be forgettable.”

I ended the day thinking: I’m in way over my head. I should probably be more well versed in literature so I know what people are talking about. At least I’m fired up about the session I went to about peacemaking and I met nice people in the small group I attended. Who do I think I am claiming to be a writer? Maybe I’ll head back to Tennessee early.

Act II : Stop being dramatic, it’s not that bad.

I decided it was a new day and it would be better. I did belong there because well…I was there and I write things therefore I am a writer. Also, the day began by randomly sitting next to my favorite author. She was so nice and friendly and after our interaction I knew it would be a better day.

I started noticing how the people in attendance didn’t have a posture of competition, but connection. Most people were so genuine and willing to connect. They were quick to shine the light on others.

I learned more about the book publishing process and the “business side” of writing.

“That’s a lot of work and I’m not really sure it’s worth it.” I think while I text a friend and tell them my dream of writing a book maybe just died.

I was reminded of truths like: when there’s a connection between your writing and your life it’s powerful, writing is an act of faith and how we live in a world of hurry up and matter.

I attended a reception for The Redbud Writer’s Guild and met some great people who were so nice. I ran into a few people I met the day before and got to know them better.

I skipped out a little early so I could retreat to my forever and always peace place:

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I ended the day thinking: Maybe I’m not forgettable. Maybe I do belong. People are nice and maybe I’ll even leave here with new friends. Maybe my dream of writing a book shouldn’t be dead. I took in so much information today my brain might explode. Stop being dramatic, it’s not that bad.

Act III : I Feel Alive.

At this point, I’m more comfortable. I’ve settled into this routine or as much of one as you can within 3 days of being somewhere. I’m fighting the exhaustion that comes with being an introvert at a conference who’s easily overstimulated and has spent the last two days overcoming a few fears.

The first session I attended was about writing from your true self. They asked us what we have to say and contribute to the world that only we can?

“What exactly does it mean to write from my true self and to own my voice?” I think as I tell God that I’m sensing a theme emerge from this time away.

I started running into people I’ve met before and have longer conversations. I met up with a friend to have a deeper conversation, I went to dinner with another new friend and I met an online friend in real life whose blog I’ve been following. I felt the truth that connecting is so much richer and more meaningful than competing.

I ended the day thinking: I need to own my voice and be who I am. I actually made some new friends who are great and I think I’ll stay connected with. I still think my brain might explode from all this information. Why does this have to be over? I feel more alive than I have in a long time.

Conclusion

It had its ups and downs, it was exhausting, but invigorating all at the same time. I learned so many things that have and will fill pages and pages.

I left better than when I came.

I’m glad I didn’t stay in Act I, but stuck with it through the final act.

4 thoughts on “The 3 Acts of Attending a Conference Alone.

  1. I’ve always wanted to go to that conference – thanks for the inside scoop! Fun to hear your thoughts on it. And I like your take on connection vs competition. That’s a good way to frame it.

    1. Thanks Nancy, the week was definitely a lesson on connecting and remembering that where I am is not where others are and that’s okay. You should consider going to the next one, it’s worth it!

  2. Love this and am SO proud of you. What a momentous weekend! I love that the simple victory of staying led to the greater victories of personal growth and empowerment. Beautiful girl, you do hard things.

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