I went to the Book Passage Travel Writers Conference again this year. In the two year’s since I went the first time I’ve done a lot more writing, taken classes, and I feel like I’m a better writer. I thought maybe I’d feel more like a senior this time and less like a freshman. But I realize now that was the wrong attitude—being in the presence of such individual and collective talent is humbling, and it will always make me feel like a freshman. In the cab on the way to the bookstore I felt like I was coming home, like I was returning to my flock. I was happy to see friends I had made two years ago and meet new ones. I realized, as I conferenced away, that writing is being a part of something larger than myself and that’s why I do it. Being a part of a community like this one is what will ensure that I keep writing.
Here are some of the things I learned.
Writing is a solitary experience, but being a writer is about being a part of a writing community. Writing groups and conferences are important because they remind us that we are a part of something that is larger than who we are individually.
Even the most established, widely published author was once in my shoes—no published work and no readers. I’m currently reading Gabriel García Marquez’s memoir Living to Tell the Tale and even he was relatively unknown outside of Colombia before One Hundred Years of Solitude. It’s about getting your work out there so that it can be noticed.
Our job as writers is to communicate and keep from boring our readers. “Is” and “was” are boring words, they just are. Get thee a thesaurus!
Good writing takes practice. Just like that joke, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice.” Isabel Allende told us that she writers to her mother every day. Every day. I hereby vow to begin a daily writing practice.
Everyone has a story to tell—some are epic, some are gut-wrenching—but we all have them. I took Larry Habegger’s personal essay and memoir track for morning class. It had the “touchy, feely” reputation from other conferencers. But I realized that these stories that we have to tell, whether they are epic or tiny, are what allow our readers to connect with us and with our writing. They are what make our writing bigger than ourselves.