A Conference AH-HA Moment

I’m sure you’ve had them.  Those moments when a concept examined on a regular basis morphs into a new framework shouldn’t be unusual.  It feels like being struck by a lightning bolt.

I attended the Emerald City Writers Conference last weekend, an annual event sponsored by the Greater Seattle chapter of Romance Writers of America.  It’s an intimate undertaking, just you and 300 of your writer buddies, plus editors and publishers and writer service providers of all kinds.  My writing tribe was there, and I felt doubly blessed to be hanging with these amazing authors along with making new friends.

But that wasn’t the AH-HA.  It came when I prepared my presentation for Sunday, during the timeslot for the last set of workshops (otherwise known as the kiss-of-death slot).  Participants would be overwhelmed, brain-dead, and ready to hit the road.  Luckily, the lunch keynote speaker was someone we all fan-girled/guyed over, so people stuck around.

On Saturday afternoon, I took a break from sessions and sat in my hotel room, wrapping my head around what I planned to say the next day.  I’ve given some version of this talk perhaps a hundred times.  Planning for the plan-phobic writer, taking care of the business side of things from a mission-vision-values-strategy approach, wasn’t something most people would want to hear after immersing themselves in craft.  Scratch that – they wouldn’t be able to hear it after taking in so much information over three days.

What could I do to make this compelling?  Many writers fear the business side of things.  I didn’t want to scare them away.

I rubbed my eyes, forgetting I wore (unusual for me) make-up, and squinted at the handout I picked up from the session I left early.  Mascara-induced tears came, and through the haze, I read the notes from that presenter.  Description.  Goals.  Motivation.  Conflict.  What every fiction writer needs to know about their characters.

Then I flipped into my workbook, the handout for my gig.  And I froze.

I think there might have been some curses of joy (or at the make-up, you choose).  It all came together with a crash of ideas.

Who are you as a writer?  (Description)

What do you want from your creative life?  (Goals)

Why do you want it?  (Motivation)

What barriers stand in your way?  (Conflict)

I’d never seen it that way before.  And that’s the way I delivered it.  It ended up being the perfect vehicle.  I asked attendees to take a breath and step back from everything they learned over the past few days.  Instead, focus on themselves and what they want out of their writing life.

The results astounded me.  People couldn’t wait to share their thoughts and realizations.  A few had tears in their eyes.  Thinking about planning in this way moved them.  I know it did, because people stopped me in the buffet line and followed me into the bathroom to tell me so!

I’m grateful to have had this opportunity, because thinking about planning in a new light inspired for me, too.  Making a difference for the 80 or so in the room left me breathless and happy.  I’m still carrying that buzz, eager to write a new self-help book focused on this, and create a workbook/journal on the topic, and design new workshop sessions around it.  All because I didn’t know what I was going to say.

What ah-ha moments have struck you out of seemingly random actions?  Please share in the comments!

2 Comments

  • Madeline Hess Olson

    Reply Reply October 24, 2017

    Yours was one of the most helpful, most inspiring of the entire conference. Was it chance or fate that placed your workshop at the final, before-keynote-luncheon spot? Who knows? I’m just glad I made it to your session!

    • Yvonne Kohano

      Reply Reply October 24, 2017

      I think it was serendipity, Madeline – with the help of a certain elf I know! Thanks for the wonderful feedback! Yvonne

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