Last week I had the privilege of attending a writer's workshop at Princeton Theological Seminary. It was a transformative week for me. Part of it was that I had no expectation for the event. I had never gone to a workshop like this and so did not have any idea of its format, the type of people who might attend or the information I would hear. I find that when I do not have preconceived notions I can be more open to possibilities and let things unfold as they do.
It was so refreshing: like-minded people, encouraging words and ideas to stir the muses, useful career information, thought-provoking speakers. I even discovered a new appreciation for running.
This conference was providential. When I think of the chronology of my decision to go, I have no idea how I found it on the internet. I was looking for writer's workshops thinking I would attend one this year. There are a plethora of them. This one caught my eye because of the title: Frederick Buechner Writer's Workshop because I enjoy Mr. Buechner's writings. I didn't give too much thought to the fact that this was held at a seminary but in retrospect being with other spiritual writers was key for me. Also, according to the grapevine of the seasoned attendees- this workshop won't be offered next year. I just happened to find this one, at this stage in my career and life and probably won't find another one like it. For such a time as this that I attended.
From the time of my first conference till now, I have always been observant of those who were "it". You know the type- they ooze confidence, have the right words to say, their very movements appear choreographed and smooth. At conferences, they are the ones everyone wants to chat with during the meet and greets. I can still visualize the tall blond from High School Model Congress days, the serious minded law student from a BioEthics conference, the slick-back dark hair, tanned, Mr. RatPack wanna-be at a business meeting or the statistics quoting incredible workout body of the wellness guru. They leave no room for doubt, guffaws, or slip-ups.
At this conference it was interesting to see "average" middle-aged adults ask questions, be open to change and possibility, be vulnerable, and be real. There was none of this "it" grouping. No posturing. No egos. (Well, maybe just a few. We are human after all.) I was reminded that underneath it all, regardless of social standings we are very similar: everyone has some type of knowledge regarding a topic, opinion or experiences and we all have insecurities, fears, and concerns. In a sense, we are all on the same playing field.
Some of the things I learned:
- God's graciousness and abundant mercy. Lately I've been pretty discouraged with this writing "career". I feel that I have not gotten any traction and any of my attempts to do so have been thwarted by family issues. From the first session, the speaker connected with me with her words. I felt as if God was speaking through her to me, offering me encouragement, wisdom and hope. To think that the great God of the universe cares enough about me and my feelings to give me a special "wink" is truly humbling and comforting.
- I finally feel that I am a writer and am on the right track for pursuing this career. Someone at the workshop was saying that he had attended another workshop where the individuals were encouraged in their introductions to say, "Hi. I am Virginia and I am a writer." Like the way AA attendees introduce themselves. The more we claim something, the more comfortable we become with that truth. I heard some new information but a lot of what I heard were things that I had discovered on my own. I was on the right track. Now that they are validated, I just have to implement it.
- I have a purpose beyond myself. God has given me specific gifts and a call. He expects me to be public with my gifts. The point is to be obedient, have faith and trust in God as I go forward in this endeavor and daily offer the gift back to Him.
- Relax. There is enough "success" to go around. There is no need to be anxious that someone is getting ahead of me or that there won't be room at the creative table for me. If God has called me to this endeavor, it will work out.
- Just give it my best effort and let God do the rest.
What about you? Have you ever attended a workshop, conference or meeting that gave you a boost? What type of conference was it? Professional? Personal? For a hobby? Did you meet people you know instinctively will make a difference in your life? Were things said that seemed to be said only to you? How did you incorporate the information gleaned into your everyday life? Is there a workshop or gathering that you can attend? What is holding you back from attending? If going away and attending a function is cost prohibitive for now, are there groups in your town you can join? What about online groups?
Do you feel called to something new? What can you do to prepare for it? Do you need an infusion of new ideas for a current calling? Can you give it your best effort and let God take care of the rest?