Lessons from My First Writing Conference

I started my life as a writer in early 2007, so I’ve now been trying to develop my skills at writing fiction and creative nonfiction for a little more than a decade. I recently pulled out my journal volume from ten years ago, wanting to get a sense of how my writing life has changed over this time span.

I opened the volume from the summer of 2007 to a random page and saw my description of the first writing conference I ever attended. It was a local conference here in Kansas City, sponsored by the University of Missouri—Kansas City, in late June 2007.

At that point in my writing career, I spent hours each day writing and reading about the craft of writing. I knew I was developing as a writer, but it was a lonely occupation. Before attending this conference, I didn’t know anyone else who spent their time as a writer. The conference was my first step into the world of writing beyond my own head and the library.

On the Monday morning after the conference, as I sat with my notes from the conference in front of me, I wrote:

“Before I dig into [my] notes, here are some major themes:

“(1) There are other people like me in the world, who want to write and who are doing something about it. Some of them are ahead of me on the journey and some are behind. We are all still traveling.

“(2) I have more discipline and dedication than some and less than others. We could all be more disciplined, but the key is to find a rhythm that works.

“(3) I probably have more talent than some and less than others. What matters more than talent is what we do with it and whether we are trying to learn and grow.”

I went on to list four pages of bullet points from my notes, most of which can be found in any good book on the craft of writing.

But those three themes I took away from the conference—I’m glad I found them again. They are still true for me today.

Ten years later, I realize the wisdom of what I gleaned from the conference. I am still traveling my path as a writer. I could still be more disciplined, and I still search for a rhythm that works, even after having drafted four novels. And I hope I will always have the humility to continue to try to learn and grow—in writing as in every other aspect of life.

A few months after I attended that conference, I was fortunate to find an introductory writing class. Through that class, I found critique groups that have helped me hone my writing. I now know many fine writers in the Kansas City area who are “like me.” This community of writers makes my path easier and hastens my development as a writer. I hope I encourage them on their writing journey also.

When have you rediscovered the truth of something you learned in the past?

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