I recently attended the @PNWA 2014 Summer Writers Conference, and as soon as it completed, I went to Buckley’s in Queen Anne for a quiet moment and a blackened salmon sandwich. But I pushed my plate to the side and moved my laptop to center stage. After four days submerged in the world of writing, I felt compelled to write. And this has happened before. It got me thinking. Exactly how does the conference environment spark that kind of magic, probably not just for writers, but for any profession?
Over the long PNWA weekend, I repeatedly heard stories from newly enthused writers about plans to outline/start/rewrite/ or finish a story. They promised to read more, learn more, query an agent or create a marketing plan. And like them, I couldn’t wait to get my fingers back to my keyboard.
Yes, the workshops were thought provoking and useful, often highlighting a way to solve an old problem with a new approach. It was wonderful to meet with agents, editors and writers. And a simple, yet powerful quip from keynote speaker James Rollins might very well change my life (“Write every day, read every night”).
But technically, I could find much of this information in a book. And I could make a few – though not all – of the connections online. What was it about the immersive experience that morphed that long weekend into a catalyst for change?
I did some research and I have an idea. It sounds simple, but I think that being at an extended conference inspires us to be writers. For a moment, we no longer identify ourselves as mothers or fathers, students or retirees, shop keepers or project managers – all who write in our spare time. We’re writers first.
In an article by Scott Barry Kaufman in the Harvard Business Review, Why Inspiration Matters, he posits, “Inspiration awakens us to new possibilities by allowing us to transcend our ordinary experiences and limitations.” I think this is the crux of why we’re motivated by any kind of well run conference. It becomes a kind of fuel to redefine ourselves based on who we aspire to be, as opposed to what we currently do.
Kaufman’s article is chocked full of benefits that either follow inspiration or perhaps enable us to be inspired, as well as a link to Elizabeth Gilbert’s related TED talk. But the article goes on to say, “…inspiration involves approach motivation, in which the individual strives to…actualize a new idea or vision.” So, being inspired to see ourselves primarily as writers can motivate us to more fully act like writers.
And the trick is holding onto motivation after the conference fades. Kaufman says the magic is triggered by “exposure to inspiring managers, role models, and heroes.” In other words, we can reclaim inspirational benefits by immersing ourselves in learning and networking situations similar to a conference, where the participants around us become mentors. I think we see others being the people we want to be and we become inspired to believe that if they can do it, so can we.
What do you think?