I remember water skiing and how much attention I paid to the wake of the boat that was pulling me along. That churned up portion of water that was so full of energy and potential for me to lose my balance. I felt so brave the first time I dared to cross the wake, riding the waves instead of fearing them. I spent all last week giving every spare ounce of energy to the Surrey International Writer’s Conference. I taught three presentations and was a panelist. I reconnected with friends and met new people. I spent so much time on Zoom that my back and shoulders ache with exciting new tension knots. But just like those long ago skiing days, I’m discovering that while being in the wake requires every ounce of my attention, as I exit the wake, I get a boost of momentum imparted by the water-carried energy of the boat. I want to make good use of this energy, my first use of it is writing this retrospective post.
Of my three presentations I had timing issues with two of them. I’d like to think I’m a more practiced presenter than that, but my presentation on Worldbuilding Communities was entirely new and the time slot was three hours which is a less familiar length for me. I had to rush the end of the presentation. I planned to be better for my Networking and Social Anxiety class, but the timer I set was on my phone. When I rejected a phone call mid presentation it stopped my timer and I didn’t realize the timer had stopped until suddenly I had two pages of material left, 7 questions in the queue, and only 20 minutes to get through it all. I had to skip an entire section and promise to put it up in written format for people to download from the SIWC website. I still feel like I delivered good content in both cases. I made myself available in during the social spaces for people to ask questions. I have some solid ideas for improving the flow of information in both of these presentations to help them better fit their time slots. I’m exceedingly pleased with the work I did to punch up the beginnings and endings of all my presentations. One bit of momentum I’m carrying away from the conference is a renewed excitement for teaching. I’ll fix up these presentations and run them as classes in Jan, Feb, March of next year.
In two of my presentations I reference Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. I couldn’t help but notice the esteem level of the pyramid and recognize how very filling teaching at SIWC is for me. I was gifted a presenter role, which meant people showed up to listen to me and treat me like an expert. That happened in social spaces as well as the class times. That level of visibility is very validating, but over time it can also become exhausting. Higher profile increases my ability to accidentally do harm and I was very conscious of that as I moved through the conference. I loved the gatherings where I got to talk a lot and be an expert. Then I loved the gatherings where I got to step down a level on that pyramid and just belong to the group, a writer among other writers. It was a delight to be part of silly conversations about the poetic qualities of refrigerator contents, two sentence spooky stories, and the way that humans pack bond with inanimate objects. It was an honor to be in conversations where people spoke about their challenges and heartaches. All of it combines to impart some momentum to me as I exit the wake of the conference.
My anxiety would like to rob me of that momentum if it could. I’m hopeful that my success at anxiety management over the past week is indicative of personal growth and the stability of the coping strategies I’ve put into place. So that when anxiety reminds me that I taught an entire class on networking, but then failed to invite anyone to join my Patreon or my monthly Creative Check-In events, I can answer it with the fact (from my presentation) that networking is about personal connections rather than marketing opportunities. I made correct decisions to prioritize paying forward instead of paying bills. When my anxiety throws a social moment into the front of my attention along with a jolt of adrenaline to tell me that I was foolish/overbearing/hurtful/an embarrassment, I answer with “maybe I was, but that moment is over and not worth spending energy on.” It is, in a strange way, very cathartic to teach a presentation on social anxiety because it allows me to be very open about the ways anxiety has sabotaged my life in the past and the things I do on a daily basis to stop it from continuing to sabotage my future.
In preparing for my presentations I did piles of research, reading, watching videos, collecting resources for the people who want to learn more about my chosen topic. Right now I am looking at a row of tabs in my browser which are articles, videos, threads, and posts that people suggested to me during the conference. I’m excited by those tabs. I love learning new things. Yet they are homework. Each one will require mental and emotional processing. Since I’m mentally and emotionally spent from the past week, I’m not certain I should use today’s little push of momentum on them. I might be better served by turning the momentum toward creation rather than more information processing. On the other hand, information processing is where the ideas for creation come from. I have a similar problem in that I have thirty days to watch recordings of presentations from the conference. There are so many good ones, but I have to balance learning new things and taking time to do the creative work that I’m newly excited about. I’ll need to space out the tabs and the videos from conference. If I’m careful perhaps I can extend the wake, the momentum push from the conference, all the way through the end of the year. I would like that. Borrowed momentum is a huge gift.
This was the second year of SIWC being online only. The pandemic which drove us all into Zoom connections was a frequent topic of discussion. It was also a frequent topic to speculate what will happen next year. Not even the conference organizers can answer that question yet. Not fully. The world is still in flux and the pandemic continues to impact all the decisions. I know I want to see online conferences continue because I see huge benefits in accessibility and connection. I also really want to attend some in person writer events because some things are lost when the conference is online only. I’m starting to look forward to 2022 and think about how I will venture forth, what I will participate in, what I might like to host, and how to make sure that the people who were suddenly included with the move online don’t get excluded again as we move forward.
I have further thoughts about the conferences and my experiences inside it, but I’ve been sitting here looking at the blinking cursor for several minutes without being able to catch any of them. That means it is time to hit post on this set of thoughts and pay attention to non-conference things. I have a business and a house that have been neglected for the past week. As much as I’d like to just pay attention to post-conference writer momentum, my life will fall apart if I don’t tend to the other portions of my world.