You walk into the lobby and already see groups of writers hugging and laughing. A part of you thinks, Great, everyone is friendly! but the other part worries, I'm not part of the group. Will I be alone the entire conference?
On Monday I shared my best conference tip for those going to ACFW, and the comments hit close to my heart. Conferences can seem like the first day of high school. It's easy to feel lonely and overwhelmed.
Let me assure you: You Are Not Alone!! Trust me on this! Not everyone has friends at the conference. Not everyone is having the time of her life.
Conferences can bring out the insecure in anybody. You see the laughter. The hugging. The "You have to meet so-and-so." And if you aren't the one laughing, being hugged and introduced to others, you can feel very alone.
Just when you're starting to feel comfortable, you'll realize it's time to pitch. Many writers get enthusiastic, "send me the full" requests, but other writers get gentle criticism instead. Guess what? It then gets worse! You hear all the excited writers gush over how so-and-so wants to see their full or how this author introduced them to that editor. Your heart shrivels inside. It's at this point, the whole conference becomes overwhelming.
You may wish you were home. You may wonder why you even try. Did you waste your money? Why do you spend so much of your energy doing something everyone seems destined to succeed at but you? There will be tears. You'll wish there was booze. But...
You Are Not Alone.
You're not. And I'm going to tell you something else--God has this. He has it.
You may think you went to conference to land that agent, but God really led you there to smile at the person in line behind you, to get over your fear of flying, to build inner strength about rejection, to break you down so you will lean on Him, to you-fill-in-the-blank.
Yeah, you feel lousy. You're not seeing anything but FAILURE in flashing lights. There's a prayer room for a reason. Go in there. Pray. Chances are, some kind writer will be in there with a shoulder to lean on.
Last year--and I'm talking all of 2012 from beginning to end--was difficult for me. On every level. I desperately wanted to go to ACFW's annual conference to meet all of the friends I'd made over the years and to pitch in person. My expectations were high. While I loved meeting friends (and met many new ones!), the conference itself challenged me, the same way life in general challenged me.
At one point I skipped a workshop, bought a coffee, sat alone in the lobby, called my husband and, with tears in my eyes, said, "I just wish I was home."
Me!! The girl who loves being around writers, who adores conferences, who has been blessed with a supportive agent and caring friends.
Yes, anyone can feel lonely and overwhelmed at a conference.
So how can we deal with this?
1. Lean on God. Pray. Know you're entering a potentially overwhelming situation and ask for His strength to get you through.
2. Be friendly, especially to those who seem new, confused, shy, or upset. God may not be calling you to meet your dream agent--He may be calling you to put your arm around someone who is struggling.
3. If you have a roomie or a trusted friend, meet up with her and discuss your feelings. Just having someone who will hug you or listen to you is a huge blessing. Jessica Patch and Cynthia Herron helped me get through a difficult hour last year. I'll always be grateful. (If you don't know anyone at conference, please contact me! I'd love to meet you! And if you get to conference and are struggling, I would love to be that ear for you.)
4. Get out of your room. Yes, it's tempting to hide away in the room when you're feeling overwhelmed, but get out. Get a coffee or a soda and get your buns to a workshop or a common space. Chances are you'll run into someone friendly who will lift your spirits. You'll just feel worse in your room!
5. Stay connected with your loved ones. You might feel isolated at conference, but a text message or phone call to your mom, spouse, child, or best friend will ground you.
Conferences can be exciting, but they can also be overwhelming. Please e-mail me at jill(at)jillkemerer.com if you're going to ACFW! I'd love to meet you!
Have you ever had a less-than-wonderful conference experience? Are you nervous about going to a big writer's conference?
Have a fabulous Wednesday!