Unapologetic

Today is the start of the 2019 Omega christian writer’s conference. I cannot wait. My bags are packed. I’m all ready to go.

There are so many things to look forward to. Seeing old friends. Meeting new people. Buying books. Lots and lots of books. Learning how to be a better writer.

One of my big reasons for going this year is for feedback. A writer spends most of their time working alone, so a chance to receive constructive feedback from other writers is not just rare, it is better than jewellery from Tiffany’s. So I hear.

A chance to receive constructive feedback is better than jewellery.

Last year I received some on-point feedback about my writing style. I met with a publisher who had a lot of good things to say about my writing. Then he gave me some constructive criticism.

“You apologise a lot in your writing,” he commented. “See that part where you say, ‘In my opinion’? Don’t do that.”

“Oh that,” I said airily, resisting the inexplicable urge to cry I feel whenever anyone talks about my work, “I wrote that because it is how I talk.”

“The point is,” he persisted, and this is the bit that hit home, “We already know it is your opinion. We are reading your book. So instead of apologising or hedging your own opinion, just say what you want to say.”

”Just say what you want to say.”

It has stayed with me ever since.

Slowly, over the course of the past year, I have accustomed myself to writing what I mean without apology. I know some people will disagree with me at times. And they have disagreed. It is actually ok. Not just logically ok, the kind of ok that is brushed off with pretend nonchalance.

It really is ok.

I am learning, as a writer and as a person, to stop apologising for myself. I am becoming bolder, more controversial, more challenging. And more myself.

Perhaps this is also part of getting older. I am nearing my forties after all. But there are moments when I am writing and I hear that publisher’s voice in my ear:

“Just say what you want to say.”

This is the kind of gold you can find at a conference. It is not just about growing as a writer. It is about growing as a person, finding your authentic and unique writing voice, and taking risks with it. It is about not writing alone but being part of a community that makes you better.

It is about growing as a person, finding your authentic voice and taking risks with it.

At conference we all get to make each other better.

Well, I’m off. See you on the other side.

Have you been to a writing conference or retreat? What was your experience of it? Apart from conferences, how else do you invite feedback on your creative work? Share your story – let’s have a countercultural conversation.

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