It was 5 a.m. when my husband woke me up. My first thoughts were not of dread, but of anticipation. I had no idea what to expect at this Northeast Ohio Christian Writers Conference. All I felt was the determination to go. I always told myself in the past that I wasn’t ready for events like these. But, this day, no matter how my thoughts tried to manipulate me, I was going.
My hour drive there accompanied me with peace. I was more excited than fearful. That’s a good sign. I played some music to lift my mood while I fantasized about my unknown future with visions so vivid, that it brought me to joyful tears. Oh, how I want this so bad. Please, God let me leave here with some helpful takeaways that will clarify my next steps.
I walked into the church where the conference was held, to find several round tables placed throughout a relatively large room. I pushed myself to sit down at a table with someone already seated at it. I will not give in to the temptation to sit at one of the empty tables. I knew all the seats would eventually fill, but my goal was not to sit and wait for people to sit down, but to sit down where people had already sat.
I quickly engaged with the people at the table. We talked about our writing passions and where we lived. I assumed the majority of people here were Christians based on the name of the event. It turns out that was the case, as more of the day unfolded.
I studied some of the people in the room, including the authors who were marketing their books in the back of the room. I spent some time going to each table, conversing with each author and learning how they became inspired to write their books.
The creativity of their hearts fueled my passion. I recall thinking how amazing God is for blessing each one with such beautiful gifts.
The key speaker, Jeanette Levellie opened us all in prayer. How cool is that!? She had such a gentle spirit to her. I instantly liked her, and each time she spoke, I had this boyish grin on my face that I couldn’t wipe off.
I spent the majority of the day from that moment on sponging in information and taking in the experience. I felt at home like I belonged there. I just don’t know how I fit in yet.
The day had been broken down by three different hourly classes we had the choice to attend. Afterward, we met back in the main hall for networking and lunch.
The afternoon repeated much of the morning routine. We chose between three different classes, concluded by meeting at the main hall for a panel Q&A. The group consisted of all the speakers and authors answering whatever questions we had.
Here we all were, hungry aspiring writers searching for the place God has prepared for us with our writing. From devotional writers to authors to poets, each person had this kindled desire to learn, write and seek God’s plan for their careers.
My favorite part of the day was when Jeanette did a “Toying with your Dreams” exercise with us. Here is a photo of the sheet we used.
Her words poured hope into my dreams and calmed my anxious thoughts of not being good enough to write. She reminded us that not everyone has the same shape and God has a particular path for us to follow. The suggestion was that we follow God’s lead, so we don’t try to fit into someone else’s shape. She continued to tell us that by doing this we will find ourselves spending less time being jealous and envious of others successes. Even as Christians, she added, we find ourselves battling envy and jealousy.
When 4 p.m. arrived, we closed in prayer. I stopped by to talk to one of the authors who had asked me if I planned to attend, The International Writers Association meeting next month. I excitedly responded with a yes! And there it was. My next step. Besides three takeaways I always strive to leave with from training and/or networking events, I also try to find the next step God imprints for me. As many people as I talked with that day and as much information I gathered, I did not see a clear next step until that point. I was able to leave fulfilled.
So, what were my three takeaways?
1). Do not be jealous or envious of others successes. We all have our own shapes. This was a takeaway from that exercise I mentioned earlier.
2). It’s ok to market yourself without feeling like I am boasting. I talked with many people that day that struggled with promoting their books or skills. I thought I was alone in feeling this way. It looks like God not only showed me that I was not alone in these feelings, but by promoting myself, it does not indicate that I am not humble.
3). Utilize the resources they provided and find various workshops to take. Enhancing my education in my writing skills as well as working with other writers will help me gain confidence and knowledge moving forward.
I drove home infused with pride and gratitude. There was a time I could never bring myself to attend one of these events. I took some time thanking God for the baby steps and progress He is helping me make. This is the farthest I have ever come, and all the glory for that goes to God!