Opinion & Editorial

Learning writ large; it’s better together

Validation. That was my key takeaway from the Willamette Writers Conference in Portland the first weekend of this month.
I’ve only recently gotten back into creative writing, after stepping away for several years to pursue my career in journalism, and I forgot how meaningful it was to have a community of writers surrounding you.
Writing can sometimes feel isolating, but being alone with your words, secret worlds and crippling perfectionism (just me?) can take a toll. Even though I have a virtual escape into the global writing community, confronting my anxiety to talk in person with other writers about their projects – and even reveal a little of my own – gave me a sense of belonging.
I realized I was among my people. Even though everyone had their own awkwardness and quirks, we were all just honing our craft. An observation keynote speaker Jeff Goins also noted, humorously, when he said he was anxious people were going to approach him, but everyone was too busy staring at the floor heading to the next workshop.
This was true for all experience levels. Even the most outgoing people had cautious humility, which actually made it easier to connect. You would strike up a conversation and not realize until later that you were “talking shop” with a best-selling author.
And that was one of the best parts about the event. The conference had writers in all different phases of their journey: well-known authors with multiple books, novelists who are about to publish their first book, writers who are pitching their finished works and those who are still working through the first draft: e.g., me.
No matter where you were in this process, everyone was treated the same, regardless of the platform. This spoke to me especially as a journalist, because even though I write for a living, I told myself that wasn’t “really the same thing.”
Well, I am supporting myself with writing and I am working on a book, too. I belonged there just as much as anyone else.
It wasn’t even just the keynote speakers and networking opportunities, but the workshops as well. I had the opportunity to learn from industry professionals, a few of which had made the step over to nonfiction and magazine writing. I was able to connect on both a journalistic and a creative writing level.
At the end of the day, I’m a sucker for conferences. Meeting people in my industry while learning more about the field and furthering my education is a thrill. Even if I don’t necessarily learn anything new (in this case, I did learn a lot of new strategies and approaches that I’m going to apply to my writing), the feeling that I get is always worth it. I value the affirmation that there are people with me all trying to add some magic to the world through the written word.



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