In less than three weeks, I will be at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference—the first writers conference I ever attended. I know this is a cliché, but I really do remember that first conference like it was yesterday. It was 1995 and I had just taken the leap into submitting stories for publication. At the orientation, faculty members kept offering tips on what to do in those moments when we got discouraged: go to the chapel and pray; visit the Hospitality Center and “ask for a shoulder.”
I’ll admit that I arrived feeling overwhelmed and scared beyond words, but once I discovered that over half the registrants were also first-timers and felt as clueless as I did, I couldn’t wait to dive in. I made a mental note of the chapel and the Hospitality Center, and the sweet woman who sounded like she really meant it when she said we could cry with her, but I don’t recall one moment of discouragement.
A twinge of fear did sweep over me when I attended the Morning Prayer and Praise time and heard someone pray, “Lord, we come to you today with expectations.” Expectations? Was I supposed to bring expectations? I’m just hoping the person who critiqued my story thought it was good.
What I remember most is the thrill I felt when that story came back with smiley faces and “Good job!!!” scrawled across the top. The critique team member pointed out some areas for improvement, but she also suggested that I show it to one of the magazine editors. An editor! I could barely eat dinner! I was petrified, but I made the appointment. I have been writing for that magazine ever since.
I met a dear friend, prayer warrior, and writing mentor at that first conference. She passed away a few months ago, and knowing she won’t be there this year to greet me with a long hug and “Oh, it’s so good to see you, my dear” is more than I can think about right now.
I realized today that I will miss one more thing this year—that beginner excitement. I have been missing it a lot lately actually. Maybe you miss it too—the days when writing was pure fun; when you were clueless and knew it and would go to a writer’s conference just to learn and have a story critiqued; when “You should show this to an editor” was an exciting bonus.
Maybe you would like to join me in praying that God would bring a little bit of that back. If you plan on attending Mount Hermon or one of the other wonderful conferences, ask Him to help you go with an eagerness to soak it all up with as few agenda-driven expectations as possible. That’s my plan for Mount Hermon this year? If you are going, what is your plan for holding on to the joy?
Submitted by a Christian Editor Network member.