Every year around the time of the RWA National conference, some of the experienced published authors in my chapter advise those of us who might be attending to think about our conference goals — why we’re attending and what we want to accomplish while we’re there. For some odd reason, hanging out at the bar doesn’t qualify.
My goal at my first RWA conference was merely to survive the experience. I went just to get a feel for what all a national conference entailed. It was overwhelming. And it was easy, in retrospect, to see the wisdom of narrowing one’s focus and setting goals. If for no other reason than to avoid that slack-jawed, deer in the headlights look so common to first time attendees.
That was a few years ago and I’ve been thinking it might be time to attend another conference. But I’ve been procrastinating and feeling indecisive about which one (maybe two?) to attend. There are so many of them.
Then I started asking myself about my conference goals. Why was I going and what did I hope to accomplish? What are the possibilities?
1) The conventional attitude of, “well, it seems like time” or “everyone else is going to conference,” aren’t even valid reasons, let alone plausible goals. Not when I have limited vacation days and an even more limited budget.
2) I could attend workshops — learn about craft or marketing or publishing. But I’m at the point right now that I don’t think I can absorb any more knowledge. The past couple years have been learning intensive and I’m feeling saturated. I’m not saying I know all there is to know, far from it, but it’s time for me to slow down the input for a while.
3) There are dozens of writers I’ve talked to on the internet whom I’d love to meet in person, but while that’s nice on a personal level, it’s not a professional goal.
4) There are agents and editors I’d like to meet and have a chance to chat with informally to get a feel for who they are and what they might be like to work with. But since I don’t have a completed polished manuscript ready to submit, there doesn’t seem to be much point. That’s not an impression I want to make.
Given the limitations, what would be the best decision in terms of accomplishing professional goals? I was stymied.
Until a couple weeks ago when I’d had a miserable few days at work and at home and everything seemed frustrating or annoying and all I could think was, “I need to get away. I need to find some solitude.” Actually, that thought cycles through my head on a regular basis, but usually I get over it and re-focus on what needs to be done.
This time I couldn’t shake it. The conviction grew stronger and developed into, “I need to get away. Find some solitude. And write.” It started sounding like a goal. A good goal.
So that’s what I’m going to do.
I’m leaving today, right after I hit “publish” on this post. I’m taking a week of vacation and going to the beach. All by myself. To find some peace and solitude. To clear my head and recharge my mental batteries. To take the time to write, just write, without interruptions or demands.
Setting goals is important. It’s just as important to be honest about where you are in relation to where you want to go, and what it will take to get there. And to acknowledge that the path others follow may not be the best route for you. This year, for me, that means no conferences. Right now, that’s a plan that makes me happy.
Okay . . . copy, paste, publish . . . that’s it, I’m gone!