Philadelphia Writers’ Conference: My Annual Oil Change

DSCN9802I’m sitting in the waiting room of my mechanic’s today while waiting for my oil change, and it occurs to me that the Philadelphia Writers’ Conference (PWC) is my annual oil change (and yes, I change my car oil more than once a year).

The PWC experience, for me, is like a whirlwind, fast and furious. During this whirlwind, all the stuff gunking up my creative system gets shaken up and flushed out. New advice helps me see past old assumptions. New craft lessons steer me farther up the artistic mountain. A casual conversation sparks an idea that carries me past someplace where I am stuck, either in business or craft—or sometimes even in a personal revelation about myself.

I eagerly look forward to the PWC every year. This will be my 5th year at this conference and it feels like home. I have a history of good things happening to me here, and always leave with some big takeaway.

As much as I love the PWC, I always get wound up in the days leading up to it. Objectively, I have no reason for anxiety, but we all know objectivity is overrated. My anxiety disorder always rears its ugly head and stress is the name of the game for days before the conference. (Apparently, I need to take my own advice—see tip #3.)

This year I tried to figure out why I get so triggered by the conference. I’m not staying in the hotel, so it’s not an away-from-home thing. I’m not planning on pitching (although I probably will because if I do it at the last minute I won’t get wound up about it—ahh, the lies we tell ourselves). I’m eager to take the courses. So what is it?

It’s just me. All my weaknesses hit at the same time. Being essentially away from home for 3 days makes me feel like I’m losing work time. I usually do a lot of work on the weekends, and the conference means I will start Monday behind the 8 ball. Being in the city freaks me out because I am totally not meant for urban dwelling—too loud, too many people. The conference itself is exhausting, with all the mixing and mingling. I get exhilarated from the people and the creativity at the conference, but as a classic introvert the effort drains me. And it’s just being out of my routine. A person with anxiety likes control—or the illusion of control. So I tend to be highly routinized. The conference is anything but routine. New place, new people, new ideas. So much of it out of my control.

ANYTHING can happen.

That’s the scary part.

That’s the wonderful part.

And that’s why I keep going back.

 

AC at the PWC***See you at the PWC! I’ll be blogging nightly recaps over on The Author Chronicles.

Comments

  1. Kerry,
    I’m not sure it is just you. I think it’s a phenomenon shared by lots of people, not just those of us with mild cases of agoraphobia, which makes convention-going a bit like stage fright until you find the rhythm of the thing and settle in.
    All I can tell you is, you mask it well.
    -gf

    • Kerry Gans says:

      Thank you, Greg. I’ve had many years of practice. 🙂 But you’re right–we all deal with something. Thank goodness we all manage to get out to conferences like these where we can all be scared together. LOL!

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