Arkham (Staying Sane)

Finding Your Tribe: The Fun of Cons

Cons often have writing tracks, allowing you to combine learning with fun
Courtesy Dragon Con Photography (c) Dragon Con, Inc.

Writers can’t survive on snacks alone. Nope, you’ve got to get out and interact with the public at some point. (I know, it isn’t my favorite piece of advice) No rule says you can’t CHOOSE the section of humanity you engage with, though. And that’s where the fun bit of being a writer comes in. We come from and specialize in every genre. So it stands that we can locate and spend time around plenty of interesting people – you know, the sorts of individuals we WANT to hang around with. And Cons are the perfect places to find them, new ideas, and a bit of a break from our usual routine. So break out the hand sanitizer and the comfy shoes because we are taking a road trip!

Something For Everyone

Naturally, there are writing conferences, retreats, and workshops out there. It doesn’t take more than a quick search to find thousands of results, both in-person and virtual. They’re available for a range of different budgets, too. And if you’ve never invested in one, I strongly recommend you consider investing in SOMETHING.

You can find options to help you polish your writing, improve a particular skill, pitch/query, and even get that book idea you’ve been sitting on complete in X number of months. If you want to discuss literature, you’ll find people convening to do so in some of the most beautiful locations worldwide. Sometimes it means feeling like a tiny minnow in the ocean, but other times class sizes are deliberately kept small enough for your voice to get heard. And you can even find mentorships where you’ll receive one-on-one time.

The writing world DOES exist to help out other writers. Even if you want to focus on genre. For instance, you can submit applications to two of the biggest workshops in the business:

But maybe your brain is clamoring for a break from writing. (Stick with me here; I promise I haven’t lost my mind) What do you do if you want some inspiration but don’t want to sit around discussing the latest publications?

Easy – you start looking at your favorite Cons.

Cons: The Other C-Word

Conferences are all well and good. But they tend to carry a more formal connotation. You expect to dress nicely, dust off your best manners, and only present work that you’ve reviewed and edited at least ten times.

Conventions, on the other hand, aren’t as structured.

When someone mentions their favorite (and there are THOUSANDS), you tend to think of people in costume, shrieking fandoms, and WIPs that could stand to see some serious work. And THAT’S what makes them the perfect retreat for the writer needing a recharge.

All fantasy/sci-fi Cons out there have writing-related tracks and programming. This could mean discussions (always interesting), workshops, or even time with authors. Dig around in their options and see what you can find. (Yes, it means looking beyond the celebrity list)

As you skim the titles of the tracks, you’ll feel your brain start pinging with inspiration. And that’s before you sit down and start listening to people! Or begin walking around among hundreds (if not thousands, depending on what you attend) of creative people.

In no time, your imagination goes into overdrive. (Don’t forget a way to take notes)

My History With Cons

I’ve attended multiple Cons (though not ComicCon – not yet), and I’ve loved every one. Beyond the writing workshops, too. (I won’t deny getting feedback on my pieces is priceless, though)

It’s impossible not to find a spot and people watch and NOT feel an itch to create. Because the cosplayers are geniuses. People craft unique characters beyond what you expect to see. And there’s this compulsion to put them into a world. Between sessions, I always find myself scribbling down notes and sketches.

And panelists come up with some of the most intriguing topics! I’ve sat through some crazy discussions:

  • Planetary rotation in distant galaxies (went into my sci-fi series)
  • Theories for zombie viral transmission (my short story, “Sterile”)
  • David Weber’s logic on how he kills characters (hilarious)
  • Integration of magic into the real world (using it for my new YA novel)

For this year’s DragonCon, I’m really looking forward to a talk on developing believable pandemic-level diseases for my short story, “Umbra Mortis.”

There’s this level of vibration you can’t find anywhere else, composed of so many creative individuals in one location. It triggers something in the back of your imagination, and you feel this compulsive NEED to start writing. Even if you’ve been blocked or stuck.

I was in a writing funk for THREE YEARS before I attended DragonCon in 2018. I sat down and started writing the day I got back and haven’t stopped since.

Find Your Weirdos

Who are your people?

Do you write mysteries? Horror? Romances?

There are Cons for your genre out there. People convene to share their love for haunted houses, Nicholas Sparks books and movies, and Sherlock Holmes. You can find SOMETHING out there that caters to an interest related to your writing. It may require some research, and you might need to travel to get to the closest meet-up, but it Will. Be. Worth. It.

At least once a year, you should try to fill up your tank with this unique creative energy.

Even if you choose not to dive in with costumes. (Though, trust me, that part’s fun, too)

Now get out there and find your tribe. They’re waiting for you.

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