Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Conference Guide for Introverts: R.E.L.A.X.

Shhh...most of us writers are introverts.

Sure, there are many exceptions to the rule...but statistics show many of us tend toward the quiet side of the spectrum and value a little bit of alone time though we may have many friends. Is this you?

Even if not, let's talk, because conference can be a bit of an overload for most people emotionally. Yes, you love meeting up with your online friends, get energized by amazing classes by some of your favorite authors, and love making new friends. However, you also may feel nervous about meetings with editors, confused about the plan your agent might have for your novel (it can be hard to make intellectual decisions with so much going on), a bit panicky about making that important contact.

What's a conference-goer to do?

Just R.E.L.A.X. Its in God's hands.

R est--make sure you get enough of it. 

Its hard to sleep in a new place, challenging when you're excited or struggling with nerves. Friends and roomates provide plenty of opportunity for socialization. Chocolate parties, My Book Therapy Pizza party, nights out on the town are just a few of the evening options. Good luck getting sleep!

Just remember, you don't need to take advantage of every opportunity. If you're overwhelmed, sometimes its better to sit out of an occasional activity to get some refreshment. Especially if you have an important appointment the next morning.

Also, think about taking a nap, even if you might miss an afternoon class to do so. I missed a few classes the first time I attended and I didn't regret it. It enabled me to get some much needed quiet time with God. Schedule rest around your appointments.

E nd your day with down time.

The truth about many of us introverts is that we can't fall asleep right after a social event. The reason? Our bodies are wired to need the down time and socialization can use up all of that energy. Go ahead and go to that evening get-together, but give yourself a bit of margin. You won't be able to fall asleep right when you return, so plan accordingly. Its a great time to spend a few minutes winding down in prayer with God or reading a few verses.

L isten for God's prompting.

Chances are you won't have enough time to chat with everyone on your list. You may not even get to see every agent or editor you hoped to meet. But God will give you enough time for the unique opportunities he has for you at conference. And they might not be what you're thinking.

One afternoon I was headed for a class, but instead found an acquaintance and we ended up praying together for 45 minutes. That was the more important appointment and could have easily been missed. 

What does God want you to do at conference that may not be on your agenda? I'm not sure, but I do know he has a plan. If he provided for you to attend, he has a reason behind that. It might be at the appointment desk, or in the prayer room, or the cafeteria. Rest assured though it may involve your career, he also has a larger plan for you as a child of God. 

A lways look for the opportunity to help someone else. 

#1 way to forget about yourself and your nerves (and any other emotional issues you are dealing with) is to minister to other people. Consider spending time volunteering, if you are an introvert it doesn't have to be emceeing the banquet. Help in the prayer room, the appointment desk, or the bookstore. Better yet, pray for those waiting for their meetings. Think of someone else first. Give a small gift to an author who has encouraged you in your journey. There is an opportunity tailor-made just for you.

X tra time with God. 

Ironically, the times we crowd God out of our schedule are the times we need the most time with Him. Conference is often running from the moment you wake up until the moment you go to bed (also often morning). When emotions run on high, come aside with Him.

Bring your Bible with you throughout the day. I wrote some Scriptures on index cards and meditated on them. Even find a bathroom if necessary. There are quiet spots, you just need to be intentional. For some introverts you might want to consider rooming alone so it is easier to find that time. Read a verse or two and focus on it, then read more when you find another few minutes. Spread your time out throughout the day. Also, consider waking up before your roomates to spend a few quiet moments in prayer. 

If you're headed to conference, don't forget to R.E.L.A.X. this year! God's with you and He has a good plan for your conference time! And if you're not, God has a plan for that, too. It is the second year in a row I have not attended, both times I thought I would be able to come...but it turns out God had some better plans for me at home. I will be moving across several states in a few weeks. 

Julia enjoys writing women's fiction whenever she can find a chair free of smushed peanut butter sandwiches and lego blocks. She is a wife and homeschooling mama of two littles. She also enjoys writing for Library Journal and Wonderfully Woven.


Sarah Forgrave said...

Great tips, Julia! ACFW can be overwhelming and exhausting, so taking breaks--even short ones--really does help.

(Sad I won't get to see you this year!)

Mus said...

Thank you! This tips are great and useful.

kaybee said...

These are good tips, Julia. Wish I were going, but it wasn't God's plan this year.
It's so easy to get depressed at a conference if you forget why you came.
I have often linked up with another person who came alone, or two, and hung out with them. Maybe I'm lucky, but I've found people at conferences, especially Christian conferences, to be friendly. We're all in this together. It's all kind of amazing, and so different from the competition in the secular world.
I like the part about volunteering and helping out. I went to a conference years ago, before I got into inspirational writing, and there was a woman who was hard of hearing. They needed someone to take notes for her. I'm a decent note-taker, my day job is newspaper reporter, so I volunteered. It was very rewarding. I'd like to do that again, but I suppose with technology that skill isn't in demand any more.
Thank you, Julia.
Kathy Bailey

Jeanne Takenaka said...

Great tips, Julia. It's so easy to get self-focused, especially when my eyes are on what's happening with others rather than on God. Serving others helps me get out of the funks that sometimes strike when I'm at ACFW.

So sorry I won't get to see you this year! :(

Krista Phillips said...

GREAT tips!!!! The only one I doubt I'll follow well is the "down time" at the end of the night!

it's so hard, because conference time is SO precious so I know, I for one, tend to cram everything in that I possibly can!

Hubby and I are going away for our anniverary the week AFTER conference for about 4 days... so I'm REALLY excited about it. I'll be coming home to pretty much kiss the kiddos and do laundry, then head out again with hubby, and THAT is going to be full of lots of rest and relaxation!

kaybee said...

Krista, way to go. A vacation after a conference is the way to play it!
I too try to squeeze in as much as possible because conferences are a rare treat. The good thing now is we have more media options, and can usually order a tape or whatever of a session we missed. Technology. I'll never go back.
Kathy Bailey

Julia M. Reffner said...


I'll miss you, too. I remember meeting you! Glad we'll get to "work" together again through ACFW! Have a great time!


I didn't follow that downtime at night well at all. That's probably why I ended up missing classes in the day, I had to find it somewhere. But I did find by the end of the time, the lack of sleep didn't help.

Woot! I'm excited for you with the hubby time right after! Now THAT will be relaxing! What a great end to conference!


That's what I tried to remember, I can get the CDs of what I missed. Sometimes the time is best spent in other ways, depending on the circumstances.

Raquel Byrnes said...

This was so helpful! I always forget to give myself downtime at those things. Thanks for the post!
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