The Value of Putting Yourself Out There

It’s been awhile since I’ve written a blog post, and that’s not for lack of wanting to write a blog post, promise. I started the year with blog posts planned out through April, and then, well, life happened. I was lucky to find time to work on my WIP, let alone draft a blog post.

But I’m back! I’m MAKING the time by writing this over my lunch break. (I’m taking my lunch break! Victories all around.)

So today’s post is about the value of getting outside your own head and being around other writers. Writing is a solitary activity, usually. I have a couple of writing groups (they don’t all meet regularly, but they’re there), and I have critique partners and beta readers. All of these things are GREAT. Another set of eyes on your words. Feedback. Brain storming. Someone to share your struggles and victories with. But it had been a few years since I’d been to a dedicated writers’ conference. Until…

Two weekends ago I flew to Salt Lake City and then drove to Provo, Utah for a spectacular writing workshop called Futurescapes. To be honest, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect when I applied on a whim last fall. I didn’t think I’d be admitted, and then once I was admitted, classic impostor syndrome kicked in and I thought, “well, it can’t be that good, right? They accepted me.”

It was fabulous. The instructors were phenomenal. The other attendees were talented and welcoming. Three days went by in a blur that left me feeling energized, although exhausted, and excited to get started on revisions, although overwhelmed by the work to be done.

Futurescapes is focused on speculative fiction. I found this focus to be critical. I’d lucked into critique groups at previous conferences that had at least one speculative fiction writer to give me feedback on the elements critical to the story, on what the industry is looking for, expects, wants, and what I can ignore while I forge my own path. But without that focus, much of what I was hearing I had to fit to my genre, which doesn’t always work out well (for instance, I can mess up the translation and think I’ve applied awesome advice when really, I’ve gone off in the weeds).

At Futurescapes, I talked to authors and agents who are experts in speculative fiction. Everyone around me was passionate about this section of the market and it was invigorating. Sure, I slept less and was completely drained by the time I got home, but it was so very worth it to wring out every usable ounce of time with these people. 

Perhaps most importantly, the feedback I received opened my mind in a new way so that old information I already knew could be processed and utilized. I’ve been querying for several years now (different projects) and in the last year and half I’ve received very similar feedback and responses from agents and editors. I understood the variation of the form letter I was receiving, but couldn’t carve out what it meant in relation to my work. Now I think I know, and that’s at least something I can use. I’m ready to make the necessary adjustments and dive back in. 

And that’s really the biggest thing I got out of this workshop – immersion in my work again. 

Okay, wait, I said this post was about putting yourself out there and connecting with other writers. But now I’m saying the biggest thing I got out of doing that was immersion in my writing? Yep. You read that all correctly.

Every time I go do something with other writers, I come back feeling like I have a deeper connection to my own projects and words. Even though I’m an introvert, I am fueled by these opportunities to be with other writers.

Stories don’t exist in isolation, and neither should you as a writer (someone please tell me whose quote I’m butchering because I’m pretty sure I heard that from an amazing author at an event in the last decade).

The last several months have been hard. Harder than I thought they’d be. Life picked up, exhaustion set in, and when I could carve out time to write, I felt like I wasn’t actually getting anywhere. I wasn’t making my work better. I was just moving shit around, if you will. 

Futurescapes gave me back a connection to my words. It’s one thing to write day in and day out. The ideas are there. The words are there.

But if they feel empty or like the words you have aren’t supporting your vision, it’s frustrating. I went through the motions because I knew getting words on the page was better than not getting words on the page, but I wasn’t sharpening my craft. I wasn’t living through the words and story like I used to. 

If you’re feeling similarly stuck, try looking for a local meetup, workshop or writing conference. I know it’s not always possible to go to these events, whether physically or because of monetary reasons, but if you are able to find something nearby and free, I highly recommend you check it out.

Every time I’ve put myself out there, I’ve been rewarded.

Trust me, it’s worth the risk to come away feeling like you’re capable of doing what you’re passionate about, and that there are people out there supporting you.

So, thank you to the organizers and instructors at Futurescapes. And thank you to my new friends who sat and brainstormed over mug after mug of tea and coffee. I’m managing to find tiny chunks of time here and there to put into action all the advice I was given in those few days, and I wouldn’t be doing that without your support and encouragement.

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