Now, since I'm a multi-published author with an agent, an editor, and various deadlines, you might think that I don't need to spend the time and money to go to conferences anymore. And, in one regard, you'd be right. I don't need to attend for the same reasons as when I was first writing. I don't need to pitch my book to agents and editors, desperate for someone to love the story as much as I did. I don't need to learn the basics of publishing, craft, promotion, market, and all those other things that are so important to a writer's education.
Conferences have other things to offer, though, beyond the networking and educational opportunities. Things that you couldn't buy with all the money of a New York Times bestseller.
- Inspiration -- Keynote speeches never fail to make me cry, even the funny ones. As I sit there and listen to how writing or reading has affected the speaker's life (Barbara Vey) or what obstacles the speaker has overcome to reach this point (Alyssa Day) or even research and anecdotes about the power of belief and courage and creativity (Brenda Novak), I can't help feeling that the work I do is important. That I'm very lucky to be on this path in the career I love so much. That I'm proud of the work I do, of the people who help me do it, and of the readers who help me keep doing it.
- Motivation -- Maybe it's because I'm an extrovert, but something about being around dozens (hundreds) of other writers just fills me with writing energy. When I attend a workshop with new tips on time management or a clever new way to plot or first-hand insights on writing forty-seven books a year, I walk away super motivated to put that new knowledge into practice. Right now I'm chomping at the bit to start on Secret Project IW--but I have to wait until my revision is done, darn it!
- Shared experience -- Since the very first writing conference I attended, when I heard one of my favorite, ultra-bestselling authors stand up and say that at the end of each writing day she thought she'd produced the worst pile of poo ever written and that soon the world would realize this and take away all her contracts and bestseller titles and she'd never write again. Then, the next day, she reads it over and thinks that it's not so bad, but the next pages... To know that every writer at every stage and at every level of success suffers the exact same fears and doubts that I do just makes me feel... better.
I guess my point is that there are some quantifiable benefits to writing conferences (like meeting agents and learning craft) and others are unquantifiable. Others aren't as tangible, but just as important. So no matter what level I reach or how many books I write or how busy I get, I'll always make time for conferences.