What I Learned at Write on the Red Cedar 2016 (Michigan’s Premier Writing Conference)

This weekend was the third year of Write on Red Cedar, a premier writing conference put on by my writing group, The Capital City Writers Association.

As always, it was an amazing experience. A weekend of amazing speakers, awesome workshops, and networking with other writers who share the same passions.

If you are serious about writing, I cannot recommend enough that you attend a writing conference. If you feel like you can’t afford it, find a way. If you can find a local one to save on travel, awesome. If not, find someone to go with that you can share transportation and lodging costs with. The opportunity to learn from those who have done what you want to do is not something you should pass up.

This year, for me, was just another example of why events like this are so important. I left feeling recharged, motivated, positive about my writing and ready to take the steps I need to take to Finish the Damn Book.

Below, are just a few of the things I learned at Write on the Red Cedar 2016.

The speakers are guides, not a final authority.

It always amuses me when participants at events like this ask things like, “Can you do Photo Jan 23, 9 36 33 AMthis? Can you do that? Is it ok if I end like this?” When you go into a conference or panel, it’s best to look at these speakers as inspiration, not a final authority as what you can do as a writer. They have the experience to offer valuable insight, but your writing choices are inevitably your own and you shouldn’t feel constrained by the advice of others.

The rules of writing are like guidelines than actual rules anyway, right?

But, I did learn….

There are rules for breaking the rules

By all means, use your creative license when writing. Make your story your own by trying new things and stepping outside of the box. But, according to Bob Mayer, our headliner (a NY Times Bestseller and the author of over SIXTY books!), you need to:

  • Know the Rule
  • Have a good reason for breaking the rule
  • And know, that if it fails, it’s on you

Fear is at the root of most bad writing

Can I get an “Amen!?”

This is definitely what is keeping me from writing at the moment. Fear and uncertainty.

The fear that if I actually sit down and write, I’ll suck. And if I suck, there goes my life’s dream. No big deal, I can get a new dream, right?

But, knowing that it’s fear that is stopping you, if the first step to moving past it.

Find the diamond in the rough

I’m not saying that what you will hear at writing conferences will be rough, but if you go to enough of them, you may start to hear some repeat advice. And that’s good, it means it works. Listen to it. DO IT.Photo Jan 22, 2 06 50 PM

But, also recognize that even though you are hearing things you may have heard before, everyone has different experiences. Keep listening.  Because, out of all those thing you’ve already heard, there might be one snip, one little nugget of golden wisdom that you haven’t, and that nugget might just surprise and inspire you.

Relationships = The Content

Conferences and events aren’t just about the workshops and the content, they are also about the relationships. They give you a chance to get face to face with the authors and agents you normally would only be able to admire from afar.

And, according to Scott Atkinson, another speaker and award-winning author and journalist, “It’s ok to be a polite pain in the ass.”

Don’t be afraid to reach out to the folks you’ve met, utilize those contacts and keep those lines of communication open. You never know what might come of it.

There are others in your boat

And, these authors and successful writers were once in your boat.

It may seem like every other writer in the world has it easy. But, they’ve simply perfected the strategies that took them from struggling to successful. And, they want to help you do the same.

The other writers at the conference? Some may be farther ahead than you but they all want the same thing and they all struggle with the same things. Use this time to really connect to the few people out there that can truly understand your struggle.

Who else attended? What did you learn? Or, if you didn’t attend this event, what is your favorite thing about writing events?

Also, be sure to check out the Capital City Writers Association (we are already gearing up for next year!) and our Finish the Damn Book program. 


2 thoughts on “What I Learned at Write on the Red Cedar 2016 (Michigan’s Premier Writing Conference)”

  1. I was there. Having attended only one other writers’ conference, the spectacular-in-every-way Write by the Lake in Madison, Wisconsin, I expected to be disappointed. From the moment I signed up (at the last minute, when I saw a tweet about there being only four spots left) I was impressed. The conference was amazing, well-organized, and super-friendly. I loved it!

    Even with my limited conference experience, I soon saw that there is little new information, but *I* am in a new place. Each presenter has a unique twist, and there is always something to learn. Hearing a thing said at just the right time, in just the right way triggers all manner of Ah-has!

    1. You are absolutely right, Natalia. Very well said! So happy you enjoyed it and I hope it gets you motivated to do big things! Be sure to keep me posted on what it inspired!

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