Continuing the theme of talking about conferences this week, I wanted to expand on a suggestion I made in a recent interview for the Australia RWA group. Here’s the question and answer:

Any advice for conference first-timers and/or nervous introverts?

If you’re afraid no one will talk to you, carry an interesting bag, or wear some unique jewelry. It gives people a reason to say something to you. Don’t be afraid to talk to other people. I don’t think conferences are meant to be experienced as a solitary venture, and I believe the experience is always much more memorable and positive when you interact with others.

Here’s what I think: I think every author should attend at least one writer’s conference in their writing career (or belong to a local RWA chapter they attend regularly, in person). Yes, there’s a lot of support and information to be had on the internet, but there’s a particular kind of energy you get from meeting up with fellow writers in person, something you can’t get online.

The face-to-face interaction, workshops, adrenaline, talking, friendship, all add up to this rather manic, wonderful, almost gleeful energy that can not only invigorate your creativity, but remind you that there are people out there, behind those books and computers, people who are struggling, searching, trying to succeed like you. That manic, gleeful energy you can get from a conference, and slightly less so from in-person meetings, can’t be reproduced through an online interaction, or even through the phone line.

But not only should you attend a writer’s conference to capture some of the mania, but to explore opportunities. Don’t just go to a conference to socialize, go to learn and expand what you know. Maybe about the craft of writing, maybe about the business of writing. Even as someone who doesn’t write, I find part of my enjoyment of conferences comes from attending the workshops, the craft sessions, the spotlights, the Q&As and absorbing what’s being said. It’s a fantastic way to stay up-to-date with the industry, with what authors are telling each other, and it’s also a great way to remind myself–for you to remind yourself–that there’s always something new to learn, or a new way to approach the craft and business of writing.

So take yourself out of your comfort zone: go to a conference, meet new people (don’t just hang out with the people you already know), introduce yourself to new people, make connections, learn new techniques, explore new publishers and get inspired!

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