2016 Hampton Roads Writers’ Conference

I quit writing this summer.


Each time I opened a document, new or old, my inner critic won. Sometimes I closed documents without saving them.


I avoided my notebooks, partial manuscripts, and poems.


Something inside me whispered that my unpublished words were worthless. That no matter how much time I spent arranging them on the page, they would always be worthless.


But then I went to the 2016 Hampton Roads Writers’ Conference.


Where I remembered why I started writing in the first place.


I remembered how stories haunt my dreams and daydreams. How the convection of my imagination brings characters and scenes to the surface over and over again, how writing these characters and scenes frees my imagination to create more characters and scenes.


I remembered the shiver of recognition when lines and phrases turn to music in a poem. It doesn’t happen in every poem I write, or even in every tenth poem, but when it does happen it’s magic.


I remembered how satisfying a difficult revision can be, both during and after the process. Like solving a puzzle or riddle. Pieces falling into place, sometimes falling into unexpected places. Creating order out of the chaos of previous drafts.


This insight was alchemy, the combined effect of a series of excellent presentations and workshops.


I can’t praise these presenters highly enough:

I’m grateful to Hampton Roads Writers for putting together such a wonderful conference.


If you write, no matter what you write or why you write, check out one of the writing conferences near you.


Especially if you’ve quit writing.

9 thoughts on “2016 Hampton Roads Writers’ Conference

  1. Sylvia Ismail September 22, 2016 / 12:39 PM

    One more thought: Although I’ve come to a full stop with the writing every so often, I’ve never stopped reading. Every morning and every night, I encounter words in whatever form I feel like – poetry, fiction, biography, history, journalism… That also can re-ignite the spark.

    • Rae Spencer September 22, 2016 / 3:55 PM

      I did quit reading this summer, though I told myself that I simply wasn’t finding the right books. I still read a few chapters here and there, but without enthusiasm. Now I’m back to reading, too, and all the books seem right. 🙂

  2. Sylvia Ismail September 22, 2016 / 12:35 PM

    Thought-provoking: I think many of us who write come up against a barrier or block from time to time – I like the title of Charlotte Mathews’ second presentation (“writing in the total absence of inspiration”). It’s a question of finding whatever gives the creative spirit the spark and the energy it needs – your photographs give me a clue! Or, sometimes, of resting – letting go until the spark re-ignites. Sometimes of being with people or travelling, where the observant ear and eye pick up something that leads onwards….
    I’m not so sure about the editing process, though. I think it can go on too long, refine too much. If the inspiration is there, the editing will be light.
    That’s my take on it. I’ve taken a break from writing on several occasions over the years. But I always come back to it; and how grateful I am to have it.
    I hope your inspiration lights up again.

    • Rae Spencer September 22, 2016 / 3:47 PM

      I’m meeting with my critique group tonight, who will help me keep the spark lit. 🙂

  3. katehodges690 September 22, 2016 / 8:46 AM

    I also have quit writing due to the inner critic. I have lately begun feeling the pull of words again. I’m glad you are finding the magic again.

    • Rae Spencer September 22, 2016 / 3:45 PM

      I hope you find the magic soon, too. Follow the pull of the words!

  4. jeanryan1 September 21, 2016 / 7:06 PM

    This post resonated. I have not written for months. Not sure why. What makes this silence different is that I’m not beating myself up for it. Odd to feel no compulsion to turn my thoughts into written words–it’s restful, in a way. Still I miss the difficulty, the thrill of writing something that makes me beam. I would welcome that energy back.

    • Rae Spencer September 22, 2016 / 3:25 PM

      I like that you have focused on the restful aspect of not writing. I suspect the energy is still there, waiting while you rest.

  5. Sharon Poch September 21, 2016 / 5:02 PM

    Rae, you expressed my feelings exactly . . . Thank you.

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