I thought I’d share with you some of my observations about writing festivals and why they’re well worth attending.
1. Learn new skills
Festivals offer lectures, discussions and opportunities (to pitch ideas, for example) that you won’t get from books or magazines. Even if you think you know everything, there is always more to learn and discussion and debate is refreshing for any writer.
2. Realise you’re not alone
Writing is a solitary business and if you write full-time you may find you don’t get out much. There’s also those self-doubt thoughts and niggles that plague us writers – chatting with other writers at a festival will help you realise you’re not alone and that other writers may feel the same.
Socialising = networking. You may think you’ve a phobia of networking but the fact is you’re doing it already on social media sites. Come to a festival and you’ll not only make friends but you’ll be putting faces to names, chatting about your work and the work of others, and making valuable contacts.
4. Industry contacts
Festivals don’t always match the perceived “them and us” divide. The London Screenwriters’ Festival in particular actively discourages this sort of divide; the guest speakers are more than happy to mingle with delegates and even participate in intimate script chats after their sessions. Be polite and be friendly; introduce yourself, even if it’s just to say “thank you”.
5. Valuable acquaintances
Never assume that fellow delegates are not as worthy of your time as more well-known faces. The person sitting next to you in a session may well be a super-successful producer, director, writer (etc.) in the future. Networking goes far beyond a quick hello, so nurture new friendships and keep in touch via polite follow-up emails or meetings. You never know what opportunities may arise in the future.
6. Mood enhancement
No alcohol required (unless networking at the bar, of course). Participate in a festival and make new acquaintances, and you’ll leave feeling as high as a kite; full of new ideas and a spring in your step as you make your way home to pick up that pen.
Inspiring speakers, inspiring debates, inspiring fellow delegates… If festival wasn’t a valid word in the dictionary, then inspiration would surely replace it. If you don’t leave an industry festival feeling inspired, then you’re in the wrong industry.
8. Healthy competition
Meeting those who’ve made it, and those on their way up (that includes you!) will give you a good sense of reality. You’re not the only one out there, tapping away in your writing room and dreaming of options, commissions, publishing and agents. Your fellow delegates are that person, too. You’re competing with them, as well as those who have already made it. Festivals arm you with the technical knowledge, whilst also grounding you; you’ll need to keep working at this writing lark, and its associated business aspects, in order to climb that ladder.
You may think that number 8 is a downside, but it is in actual fact, as the label suggests, healthy competition. Festivals aren’t designed to make you feel like a little fish, but are there to nurture and encourage you to get yourself and your work out there. Festivals give you oodles of confidence; be it the fact you’ve left the confines of your writing room and have travelled to an unknown place, the fact you’re networking and making contacts or the fact you’ve mustered up the courage to pitch an idea.
10. A bargain
The amount you will learn and glean from a festival is undefinable. A festival such as The London Screenwriters’ Festival offers what I can only describe as a crash course in all things needed to succeed in the industry. Theory, methods, contacts, networking, positive ethos, pitching, feedback, opportunities as well as social networking, events and material long after you’ve left. Priceless. What are you waiting for?
Use my 2016 special discount code: SOFLUID-16X to get a £23 discount!