Thursday, August 07, 2008

Muse Quest PDX

Romancing the Creative Life in Portland, Oregon

Kim Switzer

Creative Inspiration in a Crowd

First, sorry I missed a post last week. That was planned. Forgetting to mention it in my previous post—completely off-the-cuff!
So where was I? Attending the Willamette Writers’ Conference. It was magnificent! The organization was great. The facilities were very nice and only twenty minutes from home. The workshops were really good—interesting and informative with lots of information I can use in my writing. But none of these was the best part of the weekend.
What was the best part? The way I felt afterward—energized, enthused, motivated, ready to jump back into my writing and really gear it up and get it moving. And the cherry on top? I came out feeling like a writer. I am a writer! I know I can tackle my current, thorny manuscript problems, smooth them out and come out with a better story. Because I am a writer! Feeling this way made the conference worth the price of admission even without the outstanding workshops.
Now I’m coming down from the conference high a little bit. I am still feeling really motivated, and I want to stay this way. So I’ve been mulling over the reasons why attending the conference made me feel so great and so ready to tackle my writing in earnest. I’m thinking that if I know what built up the feelings, I can find ways to keep some of that going in my life and keep my resolve high. So what was the magic trick?
I think there were several elements that left me feeling so good:
Camaraderie—I was with a bunch of other people who were in various stages of their own writing careers. We could all either understand where the other attendees were coming from or imagine where they were going from our own writing experiences. Having other writers around who understand what you’re doing and don’t mind hearing you go on about it is a huge relief and hugely energizing. Maybe because no energy is being spent trying to translate your experiences into terms non-writers won’t find weird. How to keep this in my life? I think my newly formed writing group will do this for me. If I need even more, I can become more active in my online writing group. I can also try to make connections at the Willamette Writers monthly meetings.
Recognition—Throughout the weekend, the people running the conference and most of the people leading the workshops called us writers. They referred to us as writers out loud and in writing. Just having some outside acknowledgement of myself as a writer made if feel more true, more real to me. How to get more of this in my life? Practice calling myself a writer—I think this is a biggie and something I need to work on. Also, my writing friends and I can practice referring to each other as writers. If nothing else, this will come in handy when we make that first big sale and someone asks us to talk about our work. At least we won’t stumble over introducing ourselves.
Confidence—While confidence wasn’t handed out at the door and wasn’t even really talked about much in most of the workshops, just spending a weekend with people who seemed quite sure that we could do the things we need to do to be better writers built up my confidence. Keeping this in my life might be a little trickier since confidence is so internal. Lots of practice at writing coupled with some positive feedback should help. And further down the road, starting to publish some works will probably give my confidence a boost, too.

I know not all conferences and workshops provide all of these things. This particular conference was exceptionally good. But the experience was incredible—I can hardly wait for next year! So if you can, spend time with other people who also practice your art. The boost is worth it, really.

Kim Switzer is an aspiring novelist and avid dabbler in various visual and fiber arts, especially embroidery, beaded embroidery, oil painting, and her new-found love--art quilting. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her boyfriend, her cat, and various incarnations of her muse. For more information or to contact Kim, you can use the
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