Having just had the pleasure of attending the RWA conference in my home town of Denver, I came away with a buzz of inspiration but also the gut-wrenching fear of "How am I ever going to do all that?!?". It was a great conference and I learned a ton from the extremely well-taught classes. The conferences that I'd attended the previous two year hadn't left me with quite that feeling. I wondered why. Was it that they didn't have the same classes and presenters? The names weren't as big the people not as experienced?
As I thought about it, I decided the answer to those questions was no. They did have similar class lists, great presenters, loads of expertise to learn from. So why hadn't I come away with the same feeling?
The difference was me.
The previous years when I attended my local conference I was comfortable. I was surrounded by my critique partners, who by this point are my friends, and I wasn't as motivated to be choosy with which classes I went to. I'd gone to what sounded fun, or whatever they were going to. And what sounds fun to me is always craft classes. How to world build, how to write love scenes, how to add tension to your writing, you get the idea. While those classes were great and many ideas I'd heard before were reinforced (there is a lot to remember when writing so some refreshers can be good!), I attended maybe one marketing and promotion class the entire conference!
While that was a great idea my first and second years at conference, I've worked hard and learned a lot in these areas. It was comfortable for me to sit through those classes, nodding, agreeing, it was fun to feel smart! But thats not what I needed.
This year I forced myself to go to almost exclusively marketing and publishing classes (It wasn't easy!! Social media classes scare me! Marketing classes scare me!). I sat in the chairs, taking furious notes, my brain overloaded with information, amazed at the insights the classes taught. Not comfortable at all! And for sure not feeling smart, quite the opposite in fact (yes, I had to look up what a pixel was for Facebook because I was too embarrassed to ask in class). But it was what I needed to take the next step in my writing. It was the knowledge that I was lacking (and am still struggling to assimilate!). They were overwhelming and terrifying to my introverted self but in a good way.
Going into anything new can be scary at first. I remember being overwhelmed and terrified by the craft classes my first year and coming away from conference with that same inspired and terrified feeling that I got this year. It was a reminder to push myself, not to get too comfortable. There's always more to learn.
Conferences are to a large extent what you make of them and pushing out of your comfort zone is scary but so worth it!