Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Post-Conference Syndrome: More Like Herding Cats Than Wrestling a Bull

Conference is long ago and far away. The first film of Star Wars seems more real. The thrill of being asked for a proposal has waned into a dreamy non-certainty. You have entered the Twilight Zone of the six stages of post-conference syndrome:

1.      Relief. Conference is over. You are faintly surprised to find, having emerged from the den of lions of agent and editor meetings, that you have lived to tell about it. Solution: Congratulate yourself and move on.

2.      Frenzy. Still riding the post-conference energy wave you rise early, fast favorite TV shows, ignore chores, and stay up late in order to get the requested proposal and/or manuscript to the editor or agent by a decent deadline. Solution: Pace yourself. Don't neglect the important for the urgent.

This is my kitchen counter.

This is my kitchen counter on deadline. Any questions?

Simulated Real Life Drama: 

“I thought you said you’d have more time after the conference.”

“There are a few simple changes I learned at conference that I want to make.”

3.      Shock. You realize the “few simple changes” to improve the fruit of your previous labor can be accomplished in twelve forty-hour weeks. Solution: pick and choose what really needs done.

4.      Obstacles. Like a legion of Storm Troopers delays arise to prevent you from finishing revisions on the proposal or manuscript. They take many forms such as fear, life, or procrastination.

a.       Fear will dog you as you face all the new changes you want to make. Your literary baby that glowed with genius pre-conference now wears the Halloween costume of a mindless zombie. Solution: Resist the urge to throw your work in the trash. Remember a basic truth of Christianity: Feelings aren’t Facts. Have faith and keep honing.

b.      Life will cause you or those nearest and dearest to have major surgery, change state of residence, endure computer or car crashes, theft, find a new job, marry, and walk in different ministry directions, usually all in the same month or in consecutive weeks for several months that will feel like a millennium. Solution: Trust in God.

c.       Natural procrastination will kick in. You will reach a point where something must give. Often it will be the manuscript. Accept that sometimes delay is good. Solution: Take a breather and then get back to it. Chances are your subconscious will have been resolving story problems and drawing characters while you were off doing something else.
5.      Prevailing. The writing life is not so much grabbing the bull by the horns and wrestling it to the ground as it is herding cats. I could go on for years about this, but I know you know what I mean. Solution: Find a support group on-line and locally face-to-face. A successful book is most often a team effort from family, friends, agents, editors, and everyone in between. Set bite-size deadlines for yourself and refine those until they are doable. You can do this.

6.  Commitment.Take the Last Step. You have written the proposal. The manuscript is ready. Everything is primed to go. The only thing left is actually hitting the send button. At this point, an evil Jedi knight will wave his hand over your eyes and tell you that you should forget about it, return to your normal life, and think of this no more. Solution: Pray. Then, press send. The Force may not be with you, but Someone far better is. God will cause his will to be done in the right place and at the proper time. Results are in his hand. All you can do is be obedient and open to the lessons he teaches.

      Mary Allen, a lifelong Hoosier, has authored many articles and two    books of poems, “Journey to Christmas” and “Ten Days to an Empty Tomb”. She also contributed stories to “Kernels of Hope” published by Majesty House. Allen was named La Porte County Poet Laureate 2010-2011. She blogs monthly for, a fun site about the Midwest. Like her at 


  1. Oh yes, yes, yes! This exactly describes my experience after conference. Very clever and funny. You are so brave to post that pic of your kitchen counter. I am going to show this one to my husband so he knows he's not alone. Such a great post. Loved the Halloween Costume analogy. In fact, my WIP's costume is so scary I'm afraid to look at it!

    1. Maybe our husbands can form an Writing Spouses Anonymous. LOL.

  2. Wow, can I identify, and I'm forwarding this to my critique partners whom I know will also relate. Maybe we should hold a "messiest kitchen counter" contest... Seriously. And yes, show the hubbies the pictures and pass these words of wisdom before them. The spouses support group? Marvelous idea!

  3. Hope it encourages all of you to get through these challenges.

  4. Very good word! I can identify with all of it.