I asked my mom to come with me to the Ontario Writer’s Conference this year. Not because it was Mother’s Day. Just because I like hanging out with my mom. So there. My brother came as well. Because I like hanging out with my brothers, too. I’m one of those strange people who enjoys sitting around with each and every one of my family members. I think that’s nice.
The conference was gold, of course. I did a workshop with Canada’s premier sci-fi author, Robert Sawyer. I listened to a passionate talk from Marina Nemat, author of Prisoner in Tehran. I chatted it up with other people in varying stages of their writing walks.
Before arriving, though, I was a little apprehensive. I’ve been writing steadily since 2005. I’ve been to conferences and read many how-to books. I had that deliciously arrogant thought that maybe there was going to be nothing for me to learn at the conference this year.
Now, it wasn’t that arrogant for me to think that. Most writing resources are pretty much identical. They give you a list of things to do or things to avoid doing. Avoid adverbs. Use descriptive words. Avoid telling. Use showing. Avoid flowery, complicated words. Draw from life experience. And then, at the end of the list, the last point is always to ignore the rules and write free. Which is kinda like saying, “I have no idea how you should write, but I needed something to blog about today.”
And it’s not just blogs. Most books on writing are just the same thing repackaged and dusted off. Except, of course, for Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art and Brenda Ueland’s If You Want to Write. Those books are the cat’s meow and every single writer and artist ought to read them. Like, now.
So I wasn’t sure what I’d get out of the conference this year.
Thankfully, it turns out I am just a very arrogant dude and there is still a good deal of stuff for me to ingest. I came away from the conference with a notebook full of ideas and a burst of optimistic energy. Because this sort of conference doesn’t give you lists of dos and don’ts. Conferences give you real people who are doing what you do, only better and for a longer time. And talking with people who do what you do is always helpful. Even when you can’t make a list of why it was helpful.
Thanks, OWC! It was a great time!