You’re completely normal if you feel discouraged, disappointed, and even depressed after a writing conference! Writing a book and getting published is a long, difficult process — not to mention the hurdles of getting a literary agent, writing a solid book proposal, and even writing your entire novel if you’re a fiction writer.
These seven tips for dealing with discouragement and disappointment after a writing conference are based on my experience with the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference in California and the Write-to-Publish Conference in Wheaton, Illinois (links are at the end of this post). Don’t get me wrong – I am so glad I went to those conferences! I even wrote 7 Ways to Get the Most Out of a Writer’s Conference.
But I did feel overwhelmed at the Mount Hermon writing conference — but I met an acquisitions editor from Hachette Books and a literary agent from Books and Such Literary Management. Both were extremely interested in reading my “She Blossoms” book proposal, and both were very encouraging about my career as a published author. But even so, I felt overwhelmed at the thought of writing a book proposal! It’s a huge task, and I thought it’d take forever. I was wrong about that, as you’ll see below!
Have you ever attended a writing conference — and did you feel discouraged, disappointed, or even depressed? I hope I’m not the only writer to struggle after a conference! Feel free to share your experience in the comments section below. Which writers conference did you attend, and was it worth it? Did you leave feeling encouraged and uplifted, or discouraged and disappointed?
Dealing With Discouragement After a Writing Conference
I felt discouraged in the middle of the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference because I was encouraged to write book proposal for my “She Blossoms” idea. But when I went to the two bookstores at the conference, I was overwhelmed with all the books that have already been written!
Not only were the shelves full, the books weren’t moving. They were just sitting there, not even being looking at —much less read or dog eared or highlighed. I think I found this most discouraging of all: the idea of spending months or years of my life writing a book that if by some miracle gets published, will just sit there on the shelf.
Here’s how I learned how to deal with the disappointment and discouragement…
Figure out your specific feelings
The Write-to-Publish Conference at Wheaton College in Illinois was different, because there was one literary agent who signed contracts with at least four writers! Right then and there, those fiction and nonfiction writers had an agent. Is this normal at a writing conference? I don’t know; I’ve only been to four writer’s conferences…and I hadn’t heard of one agent-writer contract, much less four!
I felt discouraged and disappointed at this writing conference not because I didn’t get an offer of representation (in fact, that same literary agent said he would represent me if I hadn’t already had an offer from another agent in his own company!), but because of all the other writers who didn’t get offers from him. If I was one of the writers who didn’t get an offer, I would’ve felt very disappointed and discouraged because everyone else seemed to get a literary agent except me!
If you feel overwhelmed or sad after a writing conference, take time to identify specific your specific emotions. Maybe you feel like you can’t do all the work necessary to write a book proposal and/or a novel. Maybe you’re discouraged because you have no time to write, or you’re scared because you feel like you don’t know anything. Maybe you’re discouraged because you can’t seem to get a literary agent, or you’re disappointed at the amount of research you need to do. Write through your feelings.
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Identify the source of your discouragement after a writing conference
I felt disappointed and discouraged not because of the writer’s conference itself — I LOVE Write-to-Publish, and hope to teach “how to blog for writers” workshops there next year! Rather, I kinda felt bad for the writers who really want to write but don’t have the energy, motivation, or time. Every time I turned around, there was another writer celebrating the contract he or she just signed with that one literary agent…and my heart sorta broke for the other writers in the crowd.
But, perhaps those writers who didn’t get a literary agent at that writing conference felt inspired, motivated, and energized by all those contract signings! What do you think? If you were at a writer’s conference and learned that at least four writers got agents, would you be encouraged or discouraged?
Remember that every writer has her own journey
I’ve been blogging for nine years, and I actually had a literary agent in my second year of writing. I wrote about it in How I Found My Literary Agent – The Irene Goodman Agency. That fizzled fast, though: he pitched my See Jane Soar book proposal to the top five publishing houses. None of them wanted it — and now that I’ve written another book proposal for a completely different book, I understand why! My literary agent at the time dropped me as a client. (Maybe that’s why my Spidey senses are tingling at this literary agent’s acquiring so many clients at one writer’s conference, and why I’m discouraged and disappointed because of it).
Now, in my ninth year of blogging, I have a solid “She Blossoms” book idea and at least 10,000 hours of writing and editing experience. And, I received four offers of representation from literary agents within one week of sending my book proposal. I don’t know if my book will get picked up by a book publisher, and I don’t really care. The book isn’t my baby, and writing isn’t the source of peace, joy, or freedom in my life (though I do love writing! It’s just that Jesus sorta rules out everything else).
You, fellow scribe, are on your writing journey. Don’t compare yourself to other writers or published authors or bloggers. Compare yourself to yourself. How many words have you written in the past month? Has your writing improved? Are you moving the needle forward? If you’re stalled, find ways to get motivated to write.
Keep going to writing conferences – don’t give up!
Funnily, I felt discouraged at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference because I did have interest from an acquisitions editor and a literary agent (two, actually) — but there are so many books in the world. Do I really want to contribute another one? Do I want to do the work it takes to elbow my way onto the jam-packed shelves at bookstores and libraries? So it wasn’t the writing conference itself that discouraged me; it was the possibility of getting published.
And I felt disappointed and discouraged at the Write-to-Publish Conference at Wheaton College because of all those literary contracts that got signed. I really, really hope those books get sold! And, I pray for the hearts of the writers who feel left out, rejected, unwanted.
But I am SO GLAD I went to both writing conferences. They were invaluable. I’m learning who people in the publishing world are — and how friendly, down-to-earth, and authentic they can be. I’m making friends in the industry, and learning what it really takes to get a book published. And I guess I’m learning that heartache, disappointment, and discouragement are simply part of being a writer — whether or not I go to writing conferences.
Even if you left your last writers’ conference feeling discouraged or disappointed, I encourage you to go back. Just one more time. Don’t give up on your dreams of writing a book yet! And, don’t allow the failures or successes of other writers affect your own path. Know that your journey is unique, and that if you keep learning, writing, and moving your book forward…you WILL succeed.
My Favorite Books About Writing Conferences
The Portable Writers Conference: Your Guide to Getting Published by Stephen Blake Mettee is one of my all-time favorite books on writing. It really is a portable writer’s conference — the chapters include articles such as:
- Questions to Ask Literary Agents
- Selling Yourself in a Query Letter
- How to Earn $50,000 From Your First Book
- The 7 Most Common First-Novel Problems
This is an excellent resource for writers. The only thing it doesn’t contain is real-live literary agents, acquisitions editors, published authors, and feedback on your manuscript! For that, you’ll have to attend an actual conference for writers…and steel yourself against disappointment and discouragement. You never know — perhaps you’ll be one of the writers who walks away with a contract with a literary agent!
Ok, the Writer’s Market 2018: The Most Trusted Guide to Getting Published isn’t exactly a writing conference and it’s so hot off the press it’s only available for preorder — but it is one of the most famous and valuable books for writers who want to be published authors.
This resource is recommended by every writer’s conference I’ve attended, because it contains a full listing of literary agents, publishing houses, consumer and trade magazine writing markets, and even contests and awards. Writer’s Market also includes lists of professional writing organizations, resources for new writers, and even free access to webinars.
Links to My Favorite Writers’ Conferences
- Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference in California (near Santa Cruz)
- Write-to-Publish Conference in Wheaton, Illinois
- Surrey International Writers’ Conference in British Columbia, Canada (Vancouver)
Fellow scribes, if you have any thoughts or questions about writing conferences, please share below! And I welcome your tips on how to deal with writerly discouragement or disappointment after the conference is over 🙂