Not all lessons are learned in the classroom. I was reminded of some important lessons this week at the Colorado Christian Writers Conference in Estes Park.

I took a clinic at CCWC where each person submitted the synopsis and first ten pages of his or her novel prior to the conference. Then, during the meetings we discussed each one and the instructors went over the manuscripts. The instructors were experienced authors and editors. When mine was discussed, they pointed out good aspects and some that needed to be corrected. Later in the day, one member of the group came up to me and made an extremely rude statement about my writing. I have to admit I was hurt and angry. My attitude was tempered the next day, however, when her manuscript was critiqued. I listened to her defend her writing against every comment. Although I don’t know what was in her heart, it seemed she had a need to always be right, even at the cost of putting someone down to make herself feel better. She reminded me of the first lesson – always go to a conference with a teachable heart. Listen to the comments others, both faculty and conferees, and evaluate whether or not your writing would be better if you edited it with those comments in mind. You don’t have to agree, but you can’t learn or improve if you are so busy defending your work you won’t accept advice.

The second lesson was about the importance of being part of a writers group such as ACFW. During workshops and in general conversation, it was easy to spot those who have never been part of a writing organization. They didn’t have the background or skills to be as effective in pitches or in classes. I can’t encourage you enough to be part of a writers group that helps you to learn the ins and outs of the publishing business.

The third, and possibly the most important, lesson was to be prayerful and mindful of God’s direction while at the conference. I felt it most at CCWC as I went through the ups and downs of the days. My value and calling as a writer was affirmed as every time something negative happened, like the comment mentioned above or an appointment that didn’t go as well as I would have liked, it was countered by a positive and encouraging message, which usually came from an unexpected event. I felt God was directing me through these meetings and events. When you go expecting God to direct your steps, He will.