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Conversations and Connections Writer’s Conference: A Reminder of the Creative Forces That Drive Us

May 4, 2012

Intern Karolina shares her inspirations from the Conversations and Connections Writer’s Conference.

As I moved into the crowded lobby at the Conversations and Connections Writer’s Conference, my eyes zoned in on the refreshments table: there was coffee! Armed with my free caffeine, I was prepared to face the day’s events and was herded into an auditorium where Dave Housley gave a few opening remarks. He congratulated the audience of writers for being up so early on a weekend to hone their craft and network, beginning the day on a positive note.

Since I’m finishing up school (I graduate in December!) and about to enter the workforce, I decided to go to “Writing Outside the Academy: Also Known as Writers Who Have ‘Real’ Jobs” as my first panel of the day. Panel member Amber Sparks aptly reminded us that “we’re in good company” and that the trick is to just find the time, space, ideas and community to be a successful writer, even if writing is just your alter ego. She also offered a useful list of resources for writers on her website. The panelists also suggested, “let writing be your leisure” and “chip away at it” throughout the week to “keep yourself engaged” with the craft, rather than waiting for huge blocks of time to sit down and write for the first time. Though I don’t have a day job yet, this message resonated strongly with me since I am pretty busy—I have a full course-load at school, Mount St. Mary’s University, where I edit the literary magazine, Lighted Corners, and, of course, I also intern at Potomac Review! It may sound silly, but it was actually a relief to me to hear that I don’t have to sit down and write for hours—writing a few minutes at a time in my journal or on scraps of paper still counts.

The panel that I found to be the most inspiring was the last panel of the day. I went to “The Necessity of Being Unusual: 3 Perspectives on Writing.” The panelists were Matt Kirkpatrick, Adam Novy and Tom Bligh. Matt Kirkpatrick started the panel off, claiming that writing consists of three parts: 1) form, 2) content and 3) magic. Yes, magic. Kirkpatrick described magic as the original creative spark we get when we first start writing something. He encouraged nurturing that original “germ of an idea” and suggested that the best writing comes from “following that energy and exploring it.” Tom Bligh explained, “magic is a feeling” that we use to fuel our writing. This panel focused on thinking about writing differently, in a way that nurtures the kind of writing you care about. They recommended thinking about where your ideas come from and what you do to actively create ideas.

After a while, the focus shifted to revision and endings. Adam Novy told us that “revision gets to the heart of what writing is supposed to do” while Kirkpatrick said that “editing is exploratory” and that we should “cultivate generosity” when we are editing our own work. Instead of critically examining the flaws in our writing, Kirkpatrick advised “reading as an explorer and finding opportunities, or places for expansion”—places of magic, where we still had the spark. In other words—follow your creative force. As for endings, Novy suggested that next time you are at a dinner party and someone tells a story, “pay attention to where they end.” Bligh encouraged us to “end in a different way; break the routine.”

The message of the day was clear—nurture your writing. We all took a good step toward that by just going to the conference. The next step will be finding the time and space to develop our writing without getting tangled up in details of craft. We should write what inspires us and focus on sustaining that feeling of “magic” when we write. Going to the conference reminded me of that insatiable urge to tell stories that was the reason I started writing in the first place. I enjoyed the fresh take on advice about writing: overall, it just comes down to finding your creativity and doing everything you can to explore, nurture and develop it.

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