Friday, July 16, 2010

Overcoming the Jitters!

First, those of you visiting via the ACFW conference blog tour... WELCOME!!!

I've gone to the conference the last two years, and oh my goodness. Life changing doesn't even begin to describe it. I'd be going this year except I'm due to have a baby in about a week and a half. As awesome as ACFW's annual conference is... Annabelle trumps it any day:-)

As I look back over my vast conference experience (stop laughing... 2 years can be vast in my head, okay?!) the one thing that I struggled with the most is overcoming those pre--and sometimes mid-- conference jitters.

We pay a ton of money for conference fees, travel expenses, and lodging. We put all our cards on this one weekend because everyone knows that conferences are, potentially, a huge part of what could make or break our career. Not only are we rubbing elbows with the best of the best, we are networking with these people to get potential connections and we are learning a ridiculous amount of craft that will help make us better. It's a ton of stuff packed into a few short days, and it *feels* like our whole future is riding on this.

I mean, what if you go home and nothing has changed?
What if you spend all that time, money, and energy for naught?
What if everyone hates you?
What if an editor or agent laughs at your idea?
What if you walk into an appointment and choke?
Worse, what if you realize that a booger was hanging out of your nose your entire appt.?
If you're a contest finalist, what if you lose?
Worse, what if you win and trip when you get on stage??

Got you nervous yet?

As much as I tease my fellow alley-mates here about thinking positive, I will tell you that the days and weeks coming up to conference, I tend to freak out and question everything.

Since I don't get to go this year, I can objectively take a step back and see how silly my spazzing really is. I can also see things that I have done (or should do!) to help.
  1. Prepare. The more prepared you are, the more confident you feel, and the less jitters you'll have. Have plenty of copies of those onesheets. Practice that pitch. Research the agents/editors you want to stalk (er--meet.) Have a sample of your writing ready (NOT your whole manuscript though...) Get those almost-free business cards from Create a checklist and check it twice.
  2. Ask Questions. ACFW gives you a ton of resources to use. From orientation for newbies, to the course loop going on right now all about the conference that gives you all the ins and outs, there are plenty of opportunities for asking questions. Or, find someone who has gone before and pick their brain. We don't mind. I promise!
  3. Manage your expectations. I am a HUGE believer in expecting God to do AWESOME things. However, I am not a believer in dictating to God what those awesome things should be. Go into conference with an open mind and heart, not with a pre-assigned agenda as to how YOU think it should go. Instead of getting that "in" with an agent, you may learn that one nugget of info you needed to make your manuscript saleable. I'd argue that the later is probably more important than the first.
  4. Make friends. Visit ACFW member's blogs. Find out who else is going. Save a few bucks and find a roommate. Visit the ACFW forum, there are usually quite a few people talking about conference in the months leading up to it. If you already have those contacts in place BEFORE you go, it will make it much easier to network and make more friends when you get there.
  5. Pray, pray, and pray some more! We serve the Prince of Peace, and I pray that God sends His peace over you and allows you to enjoy your time at conference!
  6. HAVE FUN!!!! Okay, yes, we are professionals, but if you don't have a little fun, ugh! Go to the chocolate party, climb a tree, laugh, be a bit silly, let loose! Most importantly, BE YOURSELF!
Anyone else have any tips? Who else struggles with the pre-conference jitters? Please tell me I'm not the only one who checks everything 5 billion times and needs a good doze of anti-lunatic medicine before hopping on the plane!!


Sarah Forgrave said...

Thanks for the tips, Krista! This will be my first ACFW conference, so I'm a tad nervous. But I'm also super excited to meet blogging buddies in person.

Cindy R. Wilson said...

I love these posts on conferences. Like Sarah, this year will be my first ACFW conference. I'm nervous, no doubt, but I think the more I prepare, the less nervous I'll be. Thanks for the tips!

Mary Vee Writer said...

Your post are so much fun to read!
I have all the above +++ I can easily add the overwhelming stare at the pile of stuff I bring back home...lecture notes, business cards of new friends, books, cds, ideas for new projects...where to start--oh my!
No matter what--there is a certain thrill about the entire process of preparing, attending, and processing after. I LOVE GOING TO WRITING CONFERENCES:):)

Krista Phillips said...

Sarah and Cindy, I am SO SO SO disappointed that I won't be meeting you this year! But, alas, my Annabelle trumps:-)

have a little EXTRA fun for me, okay!?! You both are going to do WONDERFUL!


Pepper said...

Great post, Krista.
And the 'have fun' part - is the only one I'm not too anxious about ;-)
The course loop? Why haven't I caught on to that? I'm going to ACFW right now to find out about it.
and I'm TONS of excited about meeting people. Love it.
I've heard that a really good way to make wise use of those jitters (besides prayer) is to volunteer.
AND - having a baby trumps almost everything. ACFWs will come again - but not baby Annabelle :-)

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Krista -

Great post, chock full of humor and good advice. I did an article on this subject awhile back, but the publication went on hiatus.

Prayer and preparation really are key to getting the most out of the conference experience. When I was pursuing the non-fiction market, I got a lot of assignments through conferences. Now that I'm focusing on fiction, it's harder. So, the third "P" comes into play: perseverance.

Susan :)

Casey said...

Great post Krista! Hopefully when I get ready to go, you other ladies will be going too. Just thinking about everything is NERVE WRACKING and I'm not even going! I wish everyone who is the very best. :)

Krista Phillips said...

Pepper, volunteering is another GREAT way to get involved and help calm the jitters! And I have NO doubt you will be excellent at the having fun part:-)

Krista Phillips said...

Susan, ahhh, that lovely word, perseverance. Yes, I totally agree! Goes along with managing your expectations, I think. Don't expect to go to one conference and have your career handed to you on a silver platter (although some have had such experiences!)

Conference is just one tool on our journey, and in order to make it THROUGH the journey, you need a TON of perseverance:-)

Krista Phillips said...

Casey, yes, maybe next year, hmmm???

Casey said...

I hope so! I am saving now and would really, really love to go. But all in God's timing, like I have said before. :)

Krista Phillips said...

Yep, I agree. Next year depends partially on finances, but even more on Annabelle's health. Praying that she's doing GREAT and I can go in confidence, and praying that God provides just the right amount (and maybe a little extra, ha!) for you to be able to go too, in his timing of course:-)