I’m a writer’s conference junkie. It’s an expensive habit, but I can’t help it. Getting that many people together in the same place who have a passion for the same form of art and ministry is just too tempting for me to skip.
I’m freshly home from a local conference—the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writer’s conference, and as I seem to be developing a habit of doing when I get home from such things, I’m blurting my heraldic advice.
If you’re a writer, find a way to go to conferences.
In an age where communication has become increasingly impersonal with snippet-conversations via tweets, likes, status updates and their ilk, the face-to-face interaction with real people who have the clout to perhaps make dreams into realities is something I can’t even quantify. I won’t blather on and on here about how my agent and editor appointments went at this last conference, but the short version is this: The ratio of people introduced to my project to positive responses at a conference blows the same ratio from electronic, faceless submissions out of the water. If I could, I would never again submit a novel to a publisher without seeing them at a conference. (At an easy $750-$2000 expense per excursion, though, that possibility is remote.)
Something interesting that struck me at this conference, though, was the way the world of writing can present a writer with so many avenues to ply her craft. You can make a full time effort of submitting magazine articles. You can write novels. You can write non-fiction. You can tackle screenplays. And on, and on, and on. This is especially problematic for me from a temptation standpoint, because I am one of those people who wants to try a lot of things. As it is, I write fiction, I illustrate, I dabble in music, and I’ve got a real bug at the moment to churn out a screenplay, and some very influential folks (thanks to this conference) cheering me on to do so. But as the old saying goes…you can’t do everything, but you can do something, and do it well.
It makes me wonder about Jesus during his time on earth. He had the power and authority to heal any hurt borne by any mortal on this earth. I often hear skeptics ask why Jesus didn’t do more good while he was here among us. Why he didn’t do mass healings and whatever else he could cram into his lifetime to make people’s lives better, more bearable, less painful. Certainly, Jesus was capable of doing “good works” by the truckload. But I also believe he didn’t, because he was focused on the mission. Focused on the best, most important thing God the Father had given him to do while he was here. I can’t help but wonder, was he tempted to slip off track and ease the suffering of every one of those made in his image he could get his mortal legs to carry him to?
For those of us who have multiple areas of interest, I think we face a similar temptation, though to a lesser scale and a smaller consequence. Having multiple areas of ability tempt us away from really focusing, really honing the area God would have us cultivate to excellence. There are many good things in this world. Some prove to be our missions. Others prove to be distractions.
Where would we be if Jesus had decided he wasn’t interested in drinking the cup of crucifixion and the redemption of man, but instead wanted to seek out every cripple, blind person, and sick child on earth and heal them? Theologically, I doubt such speculation is actually sound, but bear with my analogy. When we run from project to project, from area to area, we risk missing the great thing the Lord wants to do through us for the forest of good things we could try, and even perhaps do fairly well.
As I forge onward into this fall and the multitudinous changes I have on life’s horizon, I pray I will have the wisdom to choose the places I focus my energies well. And I pray I have the character to do every act, even the humblest ones, that the Lord calls me to.