I just returned from a weekend retreat–part escape, part invigoration, and part re-investing in my writing career.  

I spent Saturday at The Willamette Writers annual conference.  I attend several publishing industry and book events every year, including regional writer’s conferences like this one.  While the themes and offerings vary from conference to conference and year to year, I always learn something new, meet someone new, and discover something new about myself.

Most of the writers I talk to at these conferences, including me, are all seeking the same three things–inspiration, education, and opportunity.  I would also add comaraderie–the chance to spend time in the company of others who share your passions, your struggles, and your goals.  Community for writers is a concept I spend a lot of time thinking and working on–something that will be the topic of future posts, to be sure.

But the big discussion around the coffee urns on Saturday was about how hard it was to justify the expense of such an event, given the current economy. Even in better times, I find that we writers struggle with valuing ourselves and our work enough to make any investment in our craft beyond the time we steal from our everyday lives.

Ultimately, I think we writers all want the same things–to express our ideas in our own unique voice, to be acknowledged for that unique voice, and to achieve some measure of success.  For me, writing is a career path.  And, like any other profession, I must spend the time and resources necessary to become accomplished in order to achieve my goals. 

How do you invest in your professional development as a writer? Do you take classes? Participate in a critique group? Attend conferences? Seek private editorial consult? No matter where you are on your own personal continuum, continuing education is something that can benefit every writer.

There are many community college programs, publishing industry trade shows, local book festivals, regional writers conferences and other writing programs. For a good comprehensive list of opportunities, try the Writers’ Conferences & Centers website.