Posted in writing

Why the ACFW Conference Scares the Pants Off Me

I’m Going to the ACFW Conference

penWell, I did it. After being a member of ACFW for almost four years, I finally broke down and did it. I clicked the button, spent the big bucks, and registered for the 2015 ACFW Conference.

I can’t begin to tell you how nervous and scared I was doing it. Just registering for the conference made me want to go run a marathon–away from my computer.

It’s not like I didn’t know what to do. After four years of riding other member’s coattails, I’ve heard the “preparing for the conference” speech before.  But I was still nervous.

Why I’m Nervous

What’s not to be nervous about? The work, the preparation, the decision makings, the uncertainty, the new environment? The sheer cost of going to this thing? It’s like the most perfect recipe for Nervous Stomach Ache ever made.

For one thing, there’s just so many decisions to make. Do I want to take any Continuing Education Classes? Workshops? Do I want to make any appointments with a mentor, editor, critiquer? They’re all free with the registration fee–might as well!

Of course, after you decide what classes to take and who to visit, there’s the money. Firstly, there’s the thumb drives I could buy: one with the conference syllabus, and another three of the conference–the entire conference. And the Awards Gala. And the outfit to wear to the Gala. Oh, and the hotel and travel expenses. Not free. I mean, the registration cost alone was more than $500. Add those other things up, and you can spend more than $1000 easy on this trip.

Of course, the thing that makes me most nervous is the notion of what could happen. What could happen at this conference? I’ll tell you what could happen at this conference–nervous breakdowns, tears of joy, adrenaline rushes. I could be quashed as a writer, or my career could take off. I could meet someone, get published, and am I ready for that? Heck no. But . . . . what if?

And then there’s the paperwork. No, not the paperwork for signing up–that was actually pretty easy. No, I’m talking about the paperwork you need to have ready should you decide to talk to an editor, agent, publisher, critiquer, or mentor. Of course you should have your story as finished and polished as possible. But you should also have a one sheet done, a synopsis, proposal, business card, speech and contract ready to hand over your first born.

*gasp* Ok, maybe not the first born, but you get my point–there’s just so much to do to get ready. I’ve seen so many writers turn into nervous wrecks preparing for it, and I don’t want to be one of them.

My Game Plan

So here’s what I decided to do. Number one–limit my expenses. I have family in the area, so I’m staying with them. Sure, it’ll mean getting up at the crack of dawn just to get there on time, but saving money on hotel bills will be worth it.

Number two–do only what I want. Since I am, by no means, ready for the work and hassle of publication, I will forgo meeting with editors, agents and the like. What I really want is to attend one of the continuing education courses.

Since all of the continuing education courses are held on the same day, this means that I only really need to attend one day of the conference. And wouldn’t you know, there’s an option to sign up for only one day. Knock $200 off right there. Now, there is one of the thumb drives I want, which is an added $100, but it’ll be worth it.

Number three–limit pressure by making the paperwork optional. So far I’ve limited my expenses by not staying at the hotel and attending one day at the conference.  Doing only what I want to do takes off some pressure as well, but by making all that paperwork optional, I can relieve even more pressure. The synopsis, one sheet and etc? Since I’m not making an appointment, I don’t have to have those things ready.

However, not having those things ready is kind of stupid. After all, there’s only two good reasons to attend a conference like this (if you’re not published, that is). One, the continuing education courses and two, to meet people. After all, there are going to editors, agents, publishers, writers–all kinds of people are going to be there. If you don’t try to network and meet people and expand the resources available to you, you’re missing out on a lot.

So, while I don’t have to have the paperwork ready, I’m going to try to have it ready. Just in case I do meet someone. Because who knows what’s going to happen? Only God.

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