Thursday, July 5, 2018

When Your Writing Conference Doesn’t Go the Way You Planned

by Lynn Blackburn @LynnHBlackburn

I love writing conferences. I love attending them, and I love teaching at them. 

No two events are exactly the same. Even the same conference will have a different feel from one year to the next. Some years, I look back and see them as crucial networking years. Some years they are fun. Some years are educational and informative. All are important in their own way. 

The one constant? None of them are ever quite what I was expecting.

Take my most recent conference experience. I was on faculty at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conferencein May. I taught a lot of classes so I spent most of my time either in my classroom or in my room working (deadlines don’t care whether you’re teaching at a conference or not). 

When I was out “in the wild” I found that I kept running into the same small group of lovely people. I made some new friends and solidified some previous relationships that I’m so thankful for. But there were other people I had expected to see. Hoped to see. People I had told, “Hey, we’ll catch up at Blue Ridge.”

I never saw them. Not even once. Not in the dining hall or the worship time or the coffee shop. Not as I walked to class or hung out at the end of the day. I kept thinking I would, but I never did. 

My conference experience was fabulous, but when I got home and realized all the things I hadn’t done, the people I hadn’t spoken to, the things I had missed, I started beating myself up. “You should have spent more time in the lobby/coffee shop/porch so you would have had a better chance of seeing this person/speaking to that person/meeting this person.” 

Maybe you’ve had similar experiences?

Maybe your dreams were big—Signing with an agent, being asked to submit your manuscript to a publisher, becoming BFFs with your favorite author.

Or maybe you were a bit more down-to-earth in your expectations. You went in hoping for a good critique, a friendly roommate, and that you wouldn’t spill coffee on your pale blue shirt when your favorite author sat down in the chair beside you in the coffee shop.

Regardless of how practical or impractical your hopes are, there’s a good chance that at least some of what you want to happen at a conference . . . won’t.
  • The one agent you think will be perfect for you has a family emergency and isn’t there.
  • You spend the second day in bed with a headache.
  • The one class you want to take most is cancelled.
  • You never get within twenty yards of the one author you think might be a great mentor. 
We get home and think, “What just happened? None of that went the way I thought it would.” And then we start wondering what we did wrong.

Maybe I’m the only one who does that, but I have a suspicion I’m not alone. So let me tell you what I’m learning to do when I start to second-guess myself or berate myself for not doing more, being more, saying more (or less). 

I stop. I breathe. I remember.
  • First—I stop the negative self-talk. It’s pointless. I would never chew you out for being sick or for calling it a night so you could get some rest. I would never mock you for the way you laugh or the way you dress, so I don’t need to talk to myself that way either.
  • Second—I breathe.Seriously. Take a minute and just breathe. When I get tense and anxious, I start taking these short little breaths that just feed the monster of self-doubt and frustration. So I slow myself down and take long breaths in and out.
  • Third—I remember who is control. Because it sure isn’t me. I remember that I serve the kind of God who is capable of moving mountains and stopping rivers. He is more than capable of preventing a migraine or having me bump into someone in the line for lunch. And when I remember who is in control, then I realize that the conference may not have gone the way I thought it would or planned for it to, but it did go exactly the way He expected it to. 

No matter how big or small the conference is, no matter who is there, no matter what happens or doesn’t happen, you can trust that God had you there for a reason and His reasons, while they may not be clear in the moment, are always for our ultimate good and His glory.

So how about you? Let’s talk about your conference experiences in the comments. Maybe you can be an encouragement to someone today.
Don’t forget to join the conversation!

Grace and peace,

When your #writing conference doesn't go the way you planned - @LynnHBlackburn on @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)

Things don't always go as planned at #writing conferences, here's how to cope from @LynnHBlackburn on @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)

Lynn H. Blackburn believes in the power of stories, especially those that remind us that true love exists, a gift from the Truest Love. She’s passionate about CrossFit, coffee, and chocolate (don’t make her choose) and experimenting with recipes that feed both body and soul. She lives in South Carolina with her true love, Brian, and their three children. Her first book, Covert Justice, won the 2016 Selah Award for Mystery and Suspense and the 2016 Carol Award for Short Novel. Her second book, Hidden Legacy, released in June 2017 and her new Dive Team Investigations series kicks off in March of 2018 with Beneath the Surface. The second book in the series, In Too Deep, releases in November of 2018. You can follow her real life happily ever after at and on FacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram.


  1. Thanks Lynn- a great post for perspective and staying positive.

  2. Great conference advice, Lynn. Thanks.

  3. Lynn, Thanks for your wise input. It's helpful to see things from the point of view of a faculty member. And I was beginning to think we attendees were the only ones feeling insecure.

  4. Hi Lynn, Thanks for your post. I had this experience when I went to a conference I'd never attended before. I totally felt like an outsider and no matter how friendly I tried to be, that feeling didn't go away. I couldn't find anyone to go eat dinner with because they already had plans. Also, since it was a writing and speaking conference, I went expecting to learn more about speaking, but no such class was offered. I'm trying to get over that bad experience, but doubt I'll ever attend it again.

  5. No matter what I expect I usually get something different. I think a stop, breathe, and pray attitude is always good, and I ask myself, what do/did I get for a takeaway. What was my learning for the day or days.

  6. I needed this today. I didn't get to open it when it was sent around, but got it today, just when I needed it. Only got to one conference this year, and that was only for a day. Instead of feeling sorry for myself that I didn't get to do more, I need to be grateful for the wonderful contacts I did make, and for the great encouragement I received. Sure, I'd have liked to have been there for more, but God has a way of making that all fit together. It's me that gets in the way.