I’m a writer without a dedicated circle of close-proximity friends who travel with me. Don’t get me wrong. I have a lot of online friends – friends I trust and love, even if I don’t get to see them in person. But they’re far-flung, and many of them can’t or won’t travel to a writing event. I don’t belong to an online chapter or writing group where we get together monthly and share our triumphs and sorrows. I don’t even have a critique group these days, though I belonged to all those societies in the past. So when it comes to going to a conference – even one as large as RWA National, more often than not these days, I go it alone.
It’s not a bad thing, actually, and as time has gone by, I’ve embraced the perks of going solo. So, if you want to go to a conference, but you dread going alone and don’t have a dedicated circle of close-proximity friends to accompany you, here’s a list of pros to help make up your mind:
- You can always find a seat. Whether it’s at the big keynote luncheon, that crowded workshop, or the hotel’s restaurant, single seats are rarely difficult to come by. If you hate the idea of eating (or drinking alone) because you feel self-conscious, bring a book, a printout of your ms, or your tablet. Now, you’re not alone; you’re working. Many of those people with a crowd of friends will envy you your moment of solitude.
- Private hotel room. I cannot wax poetic enough about this luxury. Yes, it’s more expensive and it cuts into your budget. But 90% of the time, you’ll get a bigger, better room. And you’ve got the perfect hideaway when the crush of crowds gets to be too much. Lock the door and take a hot bath or shower, take a nap, decompress and rejuvenate whenever you damn well please. To help with the expense, find the nearest full-service drug store, supermarket, discount store and stock up on drinks, snacks, and anything else that allows you to skip dropping money on meals/incidentals. (I generally pack or buy bulletproof coffee drinks, a refillable water bottle, nuts, meat sticks, Quest bars, and my favorite mint green tea bags.) Night owl? Early riser? Do you snore? Need the room ice-cold? You get to indulge in your dream sleep routine. You won’t run out of towels, coffee pods, or drawer space. Hog the bed and steal the covers. Take all the pillows. No one will care. Private hotel room, kids. Sometimes, it’s worth the expense.
- You’ll meet more people and get more done. Because as a solo, you tend to wander more, you’ll run into other acquaintances you might not normally see. You’ll find yourself striking up more conversations with strangers, and you never know who you might be talking to – it might even be that dream editor/agent you’ve been dying to connect with. You can also map out those must-do activities and get to them more efficiently because you’ll have fewer distractions.
- You’ll get invited to join people and do things you wouldn’t do if you were part of a crowd: special parties where only a few people are on the guest list, another solo who wants to share a meal because they hate dining alone, events pertinent to the city you’re visiting. You’d be amazed how many invitations you’ll get from people who say, “You’re here alone? Join us!”
- Whether you decide to dine out or order room service, you’re guaranteed to eat what you want to eat. Yes, it’s ridiculously overpriced, but I often take one night at a conference to stay in my room, write in solitude, and order room service. Or, if I’m craving chicken wings at the bar at 9 pm, I take a stroll down and pull up a chair. My choices are endless and they’re all mine. They can be yours, too.
- Transportation is all about you. As a solo, you’ve got a better shot at that upgrade at the airport. If you’re driving to your destination, you can listen to audiobooks, podcasts, or your favorite music without judgment. Get there at your pace, stop and stretch when you need to, and hit those silly little tourist attractions along the way.
- Your time is your time. Use the opportunity to enjoy the solitude of you. Meditate. Get in touch with your inner self. Fully immerse in the writer you.
Going solo isn’t for everyone. But if the only thing that keeps you from attending a writers’ conference is the fact you’d have to go alone, do it! You just might find you love all the results!