Faith, life, relationships, Spiritual Encouragement, Uncategorized, Writing
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3 Things I Learned About Life From A Writer’s Conference

It is a sight to see, all those self-proclaimed introverts and book nerds chatting it up.

And for this introvert, there’s a bit of a homecoming whenever I step through the doors of the Inland Northwest Christian Writer’s Conference. Honestly, it’s one of the few places that I scan the crowd for people I know (I’m usually ducking to the restroom or the drinking fountain avoiding all contact with people from my past) and I can’t wait to embrace my fellow scribes, my ecclesia of writ and converse over the topics of life and writing.

1. Do What You Love

It is evident at a conference narrowed to a specific focus that people are most energized when they are working in a field that continues to impassion them and fan that ubiquitous fire within.

It’s that remarkable sparking that fuels passion into creativity.
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Every field of work has it’s problems, and writers face a wealth of them, internal and external.

We fight the internal battle constantly, of whether or not our words are worthwhile. Do they make a difference in the pile of published words out there already? We drivel and doubt, but we keep writing because there is a particular energy that from seeking truth and communicating it to others, a catharsis in completing a novel, a blog post, an article — this is heart-work for us.

There are the external problems of getting published, finding ones’ writing voice, learning the grindingly slow reality of “honing your craft”, which is writer’s-speak for working out (every day) the muscles and the grace of producing story.

If you’re doing what you love, well, there’s magic in the air. There is an undeniable quality to the produce and the process. Whatever you do, do what you love, and the hard climb of improving your game will fill your heart with memorial stones, memories of good lessons learned.

2. Do What You Love In Community

I watched a gal hover on the fringes all weekend. I know the doubts that pulled her to the edge, the shy feeling that turns into a weird internal monster that spouts words of doubt. She remembered me from a retreat, and we recalled our shared crisis (we have both been in traumatic accidents), and had a great conversation. The monster within was dispelled, quieted. She, and I, both belonged because our hearts beat along the same rhythm of reaching pain with truth, encouraging hopelessness with hope and finding a path of words to lead people to peace.

It’s too hard to do this from the fringes.

I watched my small circles of writer-friends overlap this weekend. As powerful an engine that Google+ is for connectivity, nothing beats the pulsing circles of real-life, walking friends. I have begun to see these circles of friends as links in a chain, golden in value, because we are choosing to do what we love, together, in a supportive community where we share and serve one another with the greater goal in mind: to serve our readers.

Any worthwhile activity will face resistance. Linking arms with supportive, like-minded people engages and empowers us to provoke change and challenge the status quo.  If we move in community, we are being the church, the people who live and breathe grace-living in Christ’s name.

3. You Always Have Something to Learn

Our keynote speaker, Dr. Dennis Hensley, had time enough to give us tidbits of his expert knowledge. Like catching curls of wood shavings from a whittler’s knife, I raced to write each point down while keeping an eye on the whole of his message. Doc Hensley is an expert, and everyone, even the other faculty members gleaned gold from his talks.

But, in the workshops and the clustered conversations we were learning “how-to” lessons of a grittier vein. Many talks were not only centered on “this is what I did right” but the “learn from my mistakes”.

We learned it’s ok to write a novel that never sees the light of day or feels the smooth surface of an editor’s desk — there’s an education in the process of writing an ugly novel. Thomas Umstattd, of Author Media, was honest enough to share the story of his failed business and the lessons he learned from that process. Another faculty member confessed in the Q&A time that she failed to research before she sought an agent and almost made a huge mistake in her journey toward publishing.

A useful person, in any field of work, in any family or community, is one who can admit she’s got a lot to learn while at the same time embracing the the vulnerability of sharing her hard-fought lessons with others. Give and take, live and learn, arm in arm. That’s life-long learning.

I am a writer.

It took me years to be courageous enough to say that.

And here’s the bonus:

4. It’s Not What You Do, Or Even Who You Know, But Who You Are That Really Matters.

Jesus taught “… if your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness” (Matthew 6:22-23). Who you are shines through in spite of your best efforts to mask the truth. I learned this past weekend at my writer’s conference, that being authentic, generous and kind is ticket to being satisfied.

My husband is a UPS delivery driver. He is well-loved, but not because he drives a truck and brings packages to people on time. It’s because of who he is: happy, friendly, interested in each of his customers. When our family was struck by a drunk driver in 2011, my husband received no few than 20 bouquets from businesses on his route, not because of what he does for them, but for the genuine guy that he is.

That’s what I saw this past weekend. That’s the sort of writer-human I want to be.

Inland Northwest Christian Writers
linked with Laura at Playdates at the Wellspring

And linked the the writers at the Ordinary-Extraordinary for Just Write Tuesdays



  1. Good one Alyssa. Great encouragement. I’ve realized some time ago that if we’re doing what we love and are called to do, it doesn’t matter if we are acknowledged by the world. We are gratified in the gift we have from God… but for the record, I too enjoy your gift too…

    • Hey there Floyd. Agreed. Didn’t Jesus say something about seeking/loving the approval of men? It takes balance in sharing our gifts but not allowing them to become our identity. I think community helps with that too, in the sense that it provides accountability.

  2. Alyssa–I clicked on over from The Wellspring today. So glad I did. I’m a fellow gardener and writer on the other side of the Cascades–Renton area (near – ish to Seattle). I’ve been blogging about a year. You’re right–this blogging community is one great group of encouragers.
    Thanks for sharing the nuggets you gathered….I plan to read more.

    • Hi Jody Lee!
      So glad you came by – I love Laura Boggess’ writing so much. I’m happy you came and read and commented. Come on back 🙂

  3. Love this post! Thank you for sharing. It’s encouraged me to keep stepping out in faith. (I’ve left a whole lot of replies today, but I’m so enjoying getting to “know” you and your story.)

    • Hi Kim! Nice to meet you. Yes! Keep stepping out in faith – you won’t be sorry. Stretched and scared and breathless sometimes, but never sorry 🙂

  4. Yes, yes! All true. Especially this one (whisper) YOU ARE A WRITER! And this is good stuff. 🙂

    • Laura, Did you struggle with saying that out loud, too? I sure did. But not any longer, and the community online and in real life helps me feel more comfortable with it. Bonus, you all help me be a better, more authentic writer, too.

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