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Conference Notes: Wisdom From Robert Benson

At the end of February I was at the Florida Christian Writers Conference, where I was honored to be on a fantastic faculty. You all know I love conferences, and I believe attending conferences is one of the best things a writer can do to develop a career. I also know that not everyone can attend every conference, so I like to share my notes with those of you who aren’t able to come to Florida.

The FCWC keynote speaker, Robert Benson, spoke into our writers’ hearts that week. Below are just a few bullet points to give you an idea. Just a few points from just one of his talks. This is my paraphrase of what he said, so it can’t fully capture his eloquence. And of course you’re going to miss the gentle sound of his voice and his sly humor. But this is the best I can do.

Robert Benson
  • We are all poets. The difference between a poet and a nonpoet is that the poet can capture what they see so others can experience it.
  • There is no black and white as a writer—it’s all gray.
  • The most important thing to know is that there is nobody out there who isn’t hungry for what we have. Maybe we’re not good enough to be heard. We need to make our art better.
  • Robert Sr. said a writer has three jobs: Find your voice (write your brains out until you hear it). Learn the craft (practice…). Find what it is you have to say that no one else is saying.
  • Editing is craft, not art. You do not whistle while you do this work—you scream.
  • Be generous with your art. Be diligent with your editing.
  • Make just enough plans to head in the right direction.
  • Instead of making an outline, write a list of the stories you want to tell. You can follow an outline and still completely miss the point.
  • Only you can hear the whisper of the one who made you about what you were made for.
  • You are the poet. First make the thing. Then think about whether it’s salable.
  • I do not aspire to be a tree that falls and no one notices. I write to be read.
  • Poetry doesn’t belong to those who write it. It belongs to those who need it.

Here are just a few of Robert Benson’s books:

Dancing on the Head of a Pen: The Practice of a Writing Life

The Echo Within: Finding Your True Calling

Between the Dreaming and the Coming True: The Road Home to God

Moving Miss Peggy: A Story of Dementia, Courage and Consolation

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About Kristen Stieffel

Kristen Stieffel is a writer and freelance editor specializing in speculative fiction. She's a member of the Editorial Freelancers Association, Christian Editor Connection, and American Christian Fiction Writers.

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