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Monday, September 10, 2012

WSG 22: Crazy Conference Emotions

Writer's Survival Guide 22: Crazy Conference Emotions

Next week, I'm attending ACFW's annual conference for the very first time! The last few years, I've watched my friends and fellow writers prepare and head to this gathering of Christian fiction writers, and my heart clenched a bit at being left behind. So, when my husband and I decided this year was my year to attend, I expected to be over-the-moon excited.


Jean Muir Dress 1970
Photo by libertygrace0

But...I felt the exact opposite.

Yeah, you can call me crazy, but my first reaction flew to worry. I worried if we'd be able to afford it. I worried the expense would force my family, yet again, to sacrifice for my writing career.

Then I got over the worry, and I learned some of my dear friends wouldn't be attending. I got a little sad. What's a conference without my critique partners? I just want to give them a big old hug, you know?

This summer my exercising habits slipped. So a new emotion hopped on board. Yeah, vanity. Did I really want people's first impression of me to be of me at my highest non-pregnancy weight? Of course not!

Hey, I know this is whiny. I get it. I don't like it either.

The last few weeks brought even more emotions. Fear at making a bad--or forgettable--impression on editors.

But all that changed.

So what happened?

I'll tell you exactly what happened. I was in the TJMaxx dressing room, trying on a dress I later described to Miss Jessica Patch as one of Mrs. Roper's cast-offs (from Three's Company), and I wanted to give up. On everything.

I couldn't find a dress for the gala. I couldn't expect editors to love my work. I couldn't lose even one pound before conference. And I couldn't believe how depressed I felt.

But, as I headed to Kohl's and gagged in the mirror at a Daisy Fuentes dress that looked fabulous on Daisy in the picture but hideous on me, I realized (and I believe this is God's grace shining through His Holy Spirit), I could find a dress for the gala. I could expect editors to love my work. I could lose one measly pound before conference. And I couldn't believe how blessed I am.

Look, conferences should be wonderful. They should leave us breathless with excitement. They should be a time for us to catch up and connect with friends and publishing professionals.

But it's normal to be jittery. It's normal to feel a full range of emotions, especially if you're like me, and have been doing this a long time. I've been through rejections, and I know nothing is a sure thing. Not a perfect pitch appointment. Not even a polished, terrific manuscript. So many things are beyond our control.

It's okay to be scared, vain, sad, worried--as long as it doesn't stop us from reaching for our dreams.

By the way, I still do not have a dress for the gala. We'll see if I can come up with something this week!

Are you going to the ACFW conference? I would LOVE to meet up with you! Let me know in the comments or send me an e-mail and I'll be sure to keep an eye out when I get there!

Have you been to a writing conference? What kinds of emotions did you deal with?

Have a terrific Monday!



44 comments:

  1. You're going to have such a good time!

    I remember traveling to NYC for the RWA conference and thinking, "What am I doing, traveling to New York City like this?!"
    I went to a lot events and breakfasts alone because my roommates had other obligations. But honestly, everybody is so friendly and you're constantly meeting people that you're never alone. LOL
    I'll be going the NJRW convention in Oct and I can't wait!!

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    1. That's awesome, Jennifer! You're right--writers are SO friendly. I always enjoy meeting new people and the energy of a conference. I've heard the NJRW is a fantastic venue--wish I could come! Have a great time!

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  2. Ever since my first conference (SCBWI annual NYC conf), I've become addicted to them. There's an amazing spirit of friendship and excitement, and you can't help but come home inspired. I found the best thing to do is not have a lot of expectations when it comes to being discovered. Just have an expectation to learn and meet new people. And meet new people you will. There are a lot of people who know each other, and a lot who don't. But generally everyone is open to make new friends. And trust me, no one is going to care if you don't lose weight. Most are feeling the same way about themselves. You'd be surprised.

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    1. Can I steal a bit of your "addiction" attitude--ha, ha! I haven't been to one in a few years, but the last one I attended, I felt the same way. It was so cool to be surrounded by so many talented people! Plus, you're right about the weight thing. I'm not even overweight, so I don't know why I get stressed! Uggh!!

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  3. Jill, I can so relate to your nerves and worry! I got up this morning realizing the countdown has begun and I'm not even close to ready...on the outside. But then God reminded me He's way ahead of me and has been preparing me for this event for months...on the inside, where it really counts. So now I can relax and take care of what I can about the outside and realize it's just the window dressing and the important stuff has already been done. I'm looking forward to finally meeting you in person! Blessings!

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    1. Edie, the inside is all that really counts, isn't it? Thanks for the reminder! I can't wait to meet you too!!

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  4. I'm so excited for you!!! I hope you have a wonderful time and that it exceeds all expectations. And about that dress - I know there's one at a thrift store near you. Come on - you're the queen! :-)

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    1. Monica, I'm on it! Savers has to have something, right?? Thanks!!

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  5. Hey Jill! Oh, like others have said, I can so empathize. :) What's kind of weird is that I was waaaay more nervous last year at my second ACFW conference than my first year. I think I went into the first year not knowing what to expect, just sort of along for the ride. Last year I had these crazy huge expectations...

    This year...I'm not quite as jumbled up emotionally, but I'm definitely frazzled mentally. Lots to get ready...lots to do...but I loooove what Edie said above: God is waaay ahead of me. And it's all good. :)

    Can't wait to meet you!

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    1. I went to RWA's national conference a few years ago, and I went in with pure excitement. Not with this one! Ha! I wonder if God ever gets tired of dealing with my crazy? :)

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  6. I can't wait to meet you! This will be my third ACFW conference, and I still get nervous about all the same things. I'm an introvert--so some times I worry I'll want to hide in my room the entire time. Then I remember that there will be fun writers like you there and that God is in control. He's got this!

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    1. Well, I'm not going to let you hide in your room. I'm like a bad plate of meatloaf--I stick with you! I'm so glad everyone is reminding me--God IS in control. Why am I worried? Puh-lease!

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  7. I'm going and I absolutely LOVE this one, Jill. The very first conference I went to was in Denver in 2009 and I felt like I was under spiritual attack for an entire month leading up to it. Just filled with worry and fear and other stuff going on. But it ended up being a phenomenal conference!

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    1. Spiritual attack--what a perfect way to put it! Can't wait to finally meet you, Katie! I've got a hug with your name all over it!

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  8. What a great post - I can totally relate! I've been to quite a few writing conferences and events, and I always feel nervous and jittery before going. And I always end up meeting great people and having loads of fun! :)

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    1. Talli, your online personality is so warm and fun, this doesn't surprise me at all! I'm sure as soon as my feet hit Dallas, I'll be enjoying myself!

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  9. Come and knock on my door....
    I'll be waiting for you...

    It's gonna be a blast! :)

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    1. I totally had a crush on Jack Tripper when I was young. :) Just sayin'...

      Can't wait!!

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  10. Mrs. Roper dress. LOL. I know you'll be fabulous in every way! I'm usually excited and ready to have fun when I attend a conference. It's just great to be away from home and hobnobbing with other writerly folks.

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    1. No muumuu's Ang? :) You're right--getting away and hanging out with writers is a great way to spend a long weekend!

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  11. I've been to a few conferences and have experienced a range of emotions. It's definitely exhausting but unforgettable! You're going to have an incredible time. ;-)

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    1. So true! I'm determined to pace myself and spend some time in prayer and quiet every day. This helps me a lot! ;)

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  12. I sooo relate to this post, Jill. I'm excited about ACFW...but nervous too. I don't necessarily expect to sell my ms, BUT I want more than anything to make a good impression. I know God can do it and guide and direct my words...but there's always the fear of that unknown.

    Can't wait to meet you!!!

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    1. Yes, that's exactly what I want--to make a good impression. I know you will! You're a delight online! In a little over a week, I'll be giving you a big hug!

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  13. I can't wait to meet you Jill! I can very much relate to this post and I believe you are SO right--nothing is in our control. Thanks for that reminder!

    See you next week!

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    1. I love the sound of that, "see you next week"!! Can you believe it? Have a safe trip, and thanks for cheering me up!

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  14. I'm looking forward to meeting you! :)

    I've been to ACFW a bunch of times and I LOVE it!

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    1. Oooo, Erica, if I could squeal and hug you right now, I would. So prepare yourself, my friend!!

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  15. My first conference, I was so nervous. I worried about fitting in, how I looked, would I be dressed right, would I do and say the right things or totally come off as a reject writer who should just give it up.

    It helped me to know there were a few people going that I would know. It helped me even more though to read a book called Change Your Questions, Change Your Life. I was able to get out of that negative mindset and into a positive one, just as you have done.

    It's amazing how effective it is to not give in to worry and negativity and instead ask, "How can I be best prepared? How can I get the most out of this opportunity? What steps can I take to succeed at this?" Asking ourselves these questions turns us into Learners instead of Self-Judgers, and changes our attitudes so we are positive forces open to growth. :)

    You are going to have a wonderful time. You will meet lots of new people who will feed you strength and inspire you more than you could ever imagine. You'll come away with new friends, new knowledge and new tools for success!

    Enjoy this great experience!

    Angela Ackerman

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    1. Okay. I'm printing this comment! Thanks so much, Angela, for the encouraging words. Can you be my personal coach? :)

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  16. Yes, I went to one early in my writing career. I enjoyed it. I love the way your attitudes turned around. You were just like David in the Psalms. He started out complaining, but ended up in praise. Have a great time at the conference.

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    1. Nancy, I could never compare myself to David--but I love that you did! Thank you!!

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  17. I so appreciate your perspective, Jill. As for weight, I went to my first ACFW conference at my highest non-pregnancy weight and hated myself for it. But the friends I made there are some of my closest and dearest writing friends now. They didn't care one bit what my scale said when I left home. I wish I had gotten that memo when I was about to chuck my entire wardrobe two days before conference. :)

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    1. Ha, ha! You're right! The only person who cares about my appearance is me. Sheesh! Thanks!!

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  18. Jill - I can't wait to meet you! This will be my first conference, as well, and I'm SOOOOO relieved to hear that I'm not the only one battling these crazy-weird emotions. I was really excited to go at the beginning, but the past two days I've been dealing with depressing thoughts, fears, stress - you name it. Katie was so right above - we're under a spiritual attack. The enemy wants nothing more than to keep us at home, afraid to follow our dreams. The conference is going to be AWESOME! We won't even remember these stressful days leading up to the big event. So excited to meet everyone in person!

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  19. So true, Gabrielle--we won't remember the fears, we'll just remember the great time we had! I can't wait to meet you too! Only a few more days!! Woo-hoo!!

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  20. Do any of the Daisy Fuentes clothes actually look good on anyone? I've never had any success with her stuff, either. :) You are going to have SO much fun at the conference. I hate that I won't be there to see you!

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    1. I feel better hearing you say that about Daisy Fuentes. This is the first time I tried her things on. They look so cute on her! On me? No!! I like J.Lo's line too, but they are awfully expensive for Kohl's. Give me a break! I'm not paying $70 a shirt!

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  21. Ohhh...I wish I were going!!

    You are going to have the best time ever and I have no doubt that it will be everything you dreamed and hoped it would be.

    Bless you!

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    1. I wish you were too, Cheryl. I'll be thinking of you. Thanks for the kind words!

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  22. Ugh, I'm with you on the highest non-pregnancy weight, I actually in the last month now look pregnant (quit breastfeeding I assume is the culprit) I even got asked if I were prego again. SO I went all crazy a month ago dieting, lost 1 pound in two weeks! and decided, it's not worth it for the conference, I'll just deal with people thinking I'm pregnant and just slowly work on the weight (I've never had to before, ugh) and not add that to my preconference jitters!

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    1. Melissa, my body held onto 5 extra pounds until I stopped breastfeeding. With both kids. It didn't matter what I did--I could not lose those 5 pounds! Then, six weeks after I weaned them, my body went back to normal. You can't fight nature!

      Will you be at ACFW? I'd love to meet you!

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  23. Man, I wish stopping bf would have sucked out the weight instead of infused it! Lucky you!

    Yep, I'll be there. If you see me smack me, I'm liable to slink off and pretend like I didn't see anyone, for some reason, in a crowd I don't do so well, pretending I'm in a bubble for some reason is comforting. :)

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    1. Pregnancy and breastfeeding hormones can really mess up a body!! I will NOT smack you!! But I can be *ahem* persuasive that you join me if you're slinking. :)

      See you there!!

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