My Favorite Writing Conference Takeaways
Writing conferences can be expensive. But I've found that the inspiration alone is well worth the cost of admission.
The Hippocamp Nonfiction Writing Conference is actually pretty affordable as far as writing conferences go, which is just one of the reasons I love it.
One of my biggest takeaways from the event: sometimes, you just need to start writing.
It hit me at Randon Billings Noble’s session, Essaying the Book Review. Randon had us free-write about our favorite books and then broach those books from different angles and perspectives. And the Harriet the Spy essay I’ve been thinking about for so long started coming together in those few moments. Suddenly I realized I’d been taking for granted just how much of this involves DOING. JUST DOING. Just sitting down and writing.
I’ve developed this wonderful X-ray vision, since the conference, too.
I look at the few sheets of paper that I’ve labored over and right away I can tell where I’m overwriting, where I need to pare down. This has been especially helpful for working on my memoir, The Skeleton Club. I've thought about this book for years and I think it's finally reaching the end of its adolescence and the beginning of young adulthood. Things are still difficult and not fully formed but they contain moments of fresh beauty.
In trying to impose upon agents and readers the darkness of the story—the Satanic cult, the abuse—I’ve left little room for levity and light. I need to write more, and stop getting stuck in the pursuit of perfection.
In her Saturday evening keynote, Mary Karr admitted to throwing out thousands of pages:
“When you think, I have failed, you have not. You got rid of the pages that were standing between you and what you have to say.”
Oh, how refreshing that was to hear.
I love the energy of throwing myself into a topic, writing deeper and deeper, losing myself and finding myself again in it. I love being surprised by the process, and it’s when I come to the page and allow myself to strip down that I am surprised. That’s how the story finds its true direction.
I need to find myself in video, too. This is, in the end, my story and my experience, so i need to come to the screen just as raw and as vulnerable and as human as I come to the page. I need to make it fun, because I like and appreciate fun things that hold my attention. But I can’t let that cover over the human parts. That’s going to take a lot of courage and it’s probably going to be uncomfortable for a while. I guess I should probably make sure my expectations are realistic in that regard.
While I was driving home from Hippocamp, my thoughts full of my book, I passed a place where someone had chalked on the sidewalk in huge letters:
Enjoy the process.
I felt like it had been written just for me. I am not working toward some future happiness. I can choose to be happy in the moment, while I am writing and pitching and piecing together the story one little narrative thread at a time. I am doing what I love.