State Your Purpose

NervousLess than two weeks ago, I landed in my semi-hometown of San Antonio, Texas, to attend the 2014 RWA National conference. Though I’ve attended big trade show events in my non-writing past, it was the first time I’d been to a huge national writing conference. Therefore, I purposely didn’t set any goals for the conference because I didn’t know what to expect.

Holy crap, that was a mistake. By Friday morning, I was practically frozen in the fetal position on that impossibly comfortable Marriott bed. I’ve been trying to make sense of what happened ever since I came back, but I think it boils down to this: I went in with desire, but no purpose, and being the strongly expressed INFJ that I am, everything just sort of folded in on me.

Purposeless desire. I should have known it never works. A classic romance hero mistake…Yeah, baby, whatever. You want me? That’s cool. You don’t? Also fine. No big deal.

Things usually don’t go well for heroes like that. Like, extra not-well. Have you noticed? Those heroes that think they don’t need to put a stake in the ground, don’t need to invest, they suffer more than the heroes who are in it to win it. In the end, the I don’t have any real feelings about you one way or the other, chillaxed approach only results in an extra helping of angst when the hero finally does realize that he feels strongly about his love. Don’t get me wrong, I lurv those stories, where the hero is all crazy with nerves by the end, and he gets all tortured and frozen in the fetal position on a proverbial Marriott bed (which, thankfully, is supremely comfortable and jammed full of perfect-firmness pillows). But in real life, when I’m that hero, and haven’t declared myself to…well, myself…it’s a problem. It hurts extra bad toward the end.

The conference was overwhelmingly awesome. I’ll say that first. But it was also awesomely overwhelming, and I got to thinking about how, for me or someone like me, walking in to a situation like that, shrugging, and being all, No problem, honey buns, let’s just roll with this, is basically like saying, I want to be extra tortured later on.

So this was my lesson learned from my very first major writer’s conference. I need purpose to be sane. And I need to declare that purpose to myself from the very start and work toward it like a honey badger. Because for me, purpose is as much about getting shit done as it is about declaring myself in love with my physical and mental well-being…in the future, I’ll save all that angst for my fictional characters.

 

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10 Responses to State Your Purpose

  1. Shari Slade says:

    Wow, I think I did the opposite. I over-stated my purpose. Still ended up a little bit of a mess before the end.

    Last year, I went in with a handful of goals. A list of people I wanted to meet. A few workshops I wanted to attend. Two pitch appointments. It seemed like a lot at the time.

    This year, I went in with a color-coded hour-by-hour schedule. I thought because I wasn’t pitching, some of the pressure would be off. That’s funny, huh?

    The key to all things is probably balance. A stated purpose and the flexibility to roll with whatever comes along? I don’t know. What even is balance? *snort*

    Either way, I’ve already started a to-do list for next year. It’s color-coded. #1 blanketfort more.

    • Audra North says:

      I’ve been on vacation in a place with spotty WiFi and I’ve realized something else about myself: I NEED THE INTERNET.

      I think the color-coded schedule is the way to go, honestly. With goals like: 1. smile and make small talk for ten minutes and 2. meet one new person. Small, reachable things that don’t feel overwhelming but will probably make me reach my threshold, fast, anyway.

      Audra does not Roll With Things. This is my number one “flaw.” And I put that in quotes because, really, that’s just my personality. :)

  2. Christine says:

    I can only imagine what it would be like to attend a writer’s conference as a writer and as a reader of the other attendee’s books! Already you’ve got dual purposes – learning from the seminars as well as meeting authors whose books you enjoy (with a bit of fangirling probably too). If I were in that situation, I would probably do these things beforehand with a schedule and a notebook handy. Firstly – do I have obligations of my own to fulfill? ie book signings and the like. Secondly, what seminar topics are of the most interest and would be the most useful? Thirdly are there authors here or friends I simply must meet? Factoring all these things in, then leaving some free time for impromptu meetings or chilling out in private would hopefully send me on my way at the end, satisfied and happy.

    • Audra North says:

      I think that’s the key, is making sure the goals are really clear and achievable. I went in with no goals, and a basic desire to “meet people,” which in the end was actually a goal, just completely unachievable because there were no parameters around that!

      There was, however, much fangirling. :)

  3. Nu says:

    Nice to know anxiety gets the better of someone else now and then. Congrats on your first writer’s conference though! :) That must feel good, huh?

    • Audra North says:

      It does! I’m glad I did it because now I know what to expect. In that sense, it was a great experience, especially because I’m not yet at the point where I have to do signings or panels or whatnot. But next year… :)

      Well, we’ll see. In the meantime, yes, Anxiety is like my snuggly blanket. I carry it with my always and often bury my face in it.

  4. Jackie Horne says:

    Audra:

    As a confirmed INTJ, I feel your pain. I’ve been to two RWA Nationals, and both times found myself feeling vastly overwhelmed (although time two was a bit better than time one). Balancing the urge to retreat back to the hotel room with a small set of goals is definitely the way to go for us introverted types…

    – Jackie

    • Audra North says:

      Jackie, it’s comforting to hear that the second time was better than the first! I’m hoping that NY will be that way for me, too. And maybe since it’s closer to home, I won’t feel so pressured to maximize my time, or something like that. :)

  5. Alexis Hall says:

    First off *a big hug*.

    Second off, I’ve never been a single type conference event because I am frankly terrified of them. I’m not an introvert, and I like people, but semi-unstructured, vast gatherings at which there isn’t really a set thing for me to do … that’s hell for me, right there :)

    Also I think the bigger, the more pressured the event, the deeper the sense of imposter syndrome, and the conviction that you’re not doing it right, or doing what you should be doing, or possibly that everyone else is fine, and doing it way better than you are.

    I’ve spoken to a lot of people while they’ve been at those conferences, and I can’t think of a single one – extroverts included – who haven’t a) been a mess at the end (sometimes in the middle also) b) come away convinced they didn’t properly take advantage of it.

    So while I obviously don’t know what I’m talking about … I kind of feel part of surviving something like that is to recognise that unless you’re very clear-sighted about it, you’ll probably NEVER feel you did it “right.”

    (It’s like I don’t know a single person who went to Oxbridge who felt they properly took advantage of their time at university – even the fellow who took the joint-top first in physics, felt if he’d only worked a bit harder he’d have got the top first).

    The point is, you could probably only have figured out what you need to do for you in future by going in, as you did, ready to absorb the experience.

    And next year clearly a spreadsheet is in order ;)

    Also, this is for you.

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