Friday, February 27, 2015

Networking: The Most Important Thing I Learned at a Writing Conference

Networking is a new category of posts on this blog. These will feature my take (whether opinion, additional resources, further perspective, or questions) on a recently published post at another writing-related blog.

Join me as we kick off the new category today!

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On Monday this week, The Bent Agency featured, on its blog, Bent on Books, a post that showcased answers to the question: "What's the most important thing you've learned at a conference?" (See the post and answers here.)

It's an excellent question to ask yourself ... first, to determine whether conferences (in this case, I'm focused on writing conferences) are worth your time, and second, to become mindful of the words, phrases, statements, workshops, clinics, critiques, keynotes, and feedback that most affect you on a personal, visceral, intimate level.

Here's my answer ...

At the March 2014 Northern Colorado Writers Conference, Chuck Sambuchino of Writer's Digest was the keynote speaker. His presentation was so breathtakingly applicable that I (chagrined to have neglected the necessary supplies) spent the entire evening scribbling notes on a paper napkin, which I still have in my possession.

The entire gist of his talk had to do with the fact that nearly everything in the writing and publishing industry is out of the author's immediate control.

Think about it. You write an amazing book, but on the day you send it to a prospective agent, she's already spilled coffee down the front of her shirt, smeared her makeup, and fired her assistant. It won't be your fault that she rejects your manuscript, sight unseen ... but it's out of your control, either way.

The same holds true for editors, proofreaders, beta readers, critique groups, publishing houses, publicity opportunities, bookstores, and even readers themselves.

As someone who is a self-proclaimed (and proud of it ... usually) control freak to the nth power, I have to admit that I felt deflated (okay, perhaps despairing would be a better word) with Sambuchino's introduction.

On the other hand, however, acknowledging and even embracing that you have no control over so many aspects of the industry actually frees you (really, I promise) to focus on what you can control ... namely, yourself and your writing.

I was shocked at how enlightened I felt by his perspective. Oh my gosh, he's right. It sounds so simple, but if it's that simple, why do I keep trying to exert control over these phantom forces over which I really have no control at all? What could I be doing to act on what I CAN control, instead?

There's the question with which I'll leave you.

What could you do to act on what you CAN control in your writing life?

Think about it.

(And check out the upcoming 2015 Northern Colorado Writers Conference, to be held next month in Fort Collins, Colorado, hosted by Kerrie Flanagan, the director of Northern Colorado Writers. Registration remains open only until 130 attendees are signed up!)


  1. Networking is definitely very important, that's for sure!!

    1. Absolutely -- I learn so much from my colleagues in the writing industry!


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