Dealing With Post-Conference Stress Disorder

Following up with our attendees is one of the great pleasures we have after each year’s DFWcon.  In the past few weeks, we’ve gotten to spotlight the success stories of Annie Neugebauer and David Justin, and are looking forward to having more good news to share.

Still, the reality is that the great majority of attendees don’t immediately find a magical golden ticket in their chocolate bar.  For most of us, the joy of getting a request at the conference soon ferments into the terror of actually hitting the Send button, and then sours into a long… LONG waiting period.

How do you survive this wall-crawling anxiety?  Relax, take a deep breath, and let Vance Pumphrey talk you through it.

vance-headshotHas it really been only six weeks since the conference?  So much has happened, so little has gotten done.

From the Twitter interactions I’ve seen, there are a number of attendees, agents and DFWWW staff that are going through withdrawal – even now, more than a month later.  I know I’m one.  When I finally climbed back on the plane for the return trip to Seattle, my head was swimming.  What’s next?

Well, I spent the entire four-hour flight preparing the requested materials for the agents and editors who had asked for them.  While I had five requests for my work, none of the five asked for the same thing!  I’ve since learned how diverse those requests can be.  One page synopsis, three page synopsis and – of course – no synopsis.  First five pages, first ten pages, first twenty-five pages, first chapter, first three chapters and the best:  send me the whole manuscript.

I spent the first three days back in Seattle submitting that material to the requesting agents/editors.  That’s when the letdown truly began.  What to do now?  My manuscript was complete.  I am not good at waiting – I fidget and second-guess with the best of them (or worst…)  Did I send the correct material to the agents?  Was the material the best it could be?  Should I make any changes?  How long do I wait before bugging the recipients?  Should I bug them at all?  And that was just the first ten minutes…

The happiest I was that first week back in Seattle was when Kirk asked me to write down my experience at the conference.  Still, by the end of week one, my coworkers ran at the very sight of me, my dog knew better than to beg for attention, and my wife – bless her heart – tried to help, but quickly realized I was beyond it.

By the time the second week post-DFWcon began, I was inconsolable.  Fortunately, I had a major busy period at work to keep me occupied.  But since I normally use my lunch breaks to work on my book and the current project had been put on hold, I was at a loss as to what to do with myself.  Every minute was frustration incarnate.

The third week, I was consumed with traveling back to Texas for my father’s 80th birthday.  Somewhere in there, I made a decision to begin work on a new project.  Finally, the relief began in earnest.  On the plane back to DFW, I hammered out several thousand words.  On the way back, I completed that chapter and got a good start on the second – more than 5,000 words in total.

Lesson learned?  Deal with the depression by immersing yourself in your project.  If the pitched manuscript is complete, get rolling on your next one.  But don’t lose sight of the work being pitched.  Stay with it.  Nurture it.  Annoy some more agents.  You should spend a designated amount of time each day on that project – you decide how much, but don’t cheat!

Authors are notorious for having their minds overflow onto the written page.  If you allow that system to back up, then you will make yourself – and everyone around you – miserable.  Get back to writing.

Bottom line?  Write.  It will make you feel better.

Vance Pumphrey is a husband, father, Navy veteran, author, and yes, card-carrying Dungeon Master.  When not busy working in Seattle’s glass industry, he can usually be found with a fast car or a great book.  Find him online on Twitter and Facebook

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