A Gathering of Twitches

This blog is from one twitch to another. Let me explain…

My husband loves that I’m a writer. He loves my creativity and passion. And he loves how happy I am when I’m writing. He knows when I’m writing because I get “twitchy.” Translation: Distracted. Otherwise occupied. Caught up in scenes and conversations no one but I—and that multitude in my mind–can see or hear. He knows that when the twitchies hit, he’s only wasting breath to ask me things like, “Did you pick up milk today?” or, more true-to-life, “Why is the milk in the oven?” He knows when I’m lost in twitchiness that I don’t realize what’s happening in the here and now. And so he just sighs, checks to see if the milk is still cold, then puts it away. Or goes to the store for a new gallon.

Happily, he doesn’t mind too much when I’m a twitch. He even likes to come to my world for visits—short visits, that is–and help where he can. Like the time he helped me write a scene where a cougar attacks my protags. My darlin’ Master Security Officer knew the kind of gun my hero would use (no, silly, I didn’t kill the cougar, just scared it off!), the distance said gun could shoot, how the bullets would react hitting the ground as opposed to hitting large boulders, and so much more. Oh yes, he loves all of that. But the one thing my grounded, “just-the-facts-ma’am” hubby can’t do is understand my world. The world in my head. The world peopled by characters who sometimes seem far more real than the person sitting next to me in church. Truth is, the only people who understand this world of words and publishing are those in it. Fellow Twitches.

That’s why I love writers’ conferences. There’s nothing like being surrounded by people who really get it. When you’re at a writer’s conference, no one looks at you cross-eyed when you say your characters kept you up all night arguing. And no one runs screaming from the room—or calls 9-1-1–when lunch conversation turns to the best poisons to use to kill someone and not leave a trace. When you attend a writers’ conference, people can spend hours debating the use of semicolons in fiction or whether e-books are a godsend or the devil’s spawn. There are few places I, and many of the writers I know, feel as at home as at a writers’ conference. Which is why, when someone asks me what advice I can give them as they’re developing their writing career, my response is almost always: attend a writers’ conference.

I know it’s an investment of time and money to attend a conference. I get that. But friends, we need to gather together in these places. We need time with our fellow twitches, to learn and grow. To talk and share, to worship and celebrate and pray together for God’s guidance on this journey. I attend conferences to speak and teach, but I always receive so much in return: fellowship, encouragement, enlightenment, and an ever deepening understanding of the publishing industry. As with any training for any job, the investment you make in a conference is well worth it. Where else can you receive focused, hands-on teaching? Critiques from professionals who don’t want anything from you, but seek only to help you. And where else can you have face-to-face time with industry insiders? There’s no substitute for an editor knowing who you are because s/he has met you.

I believe in these conferences so much that throughout the year, I’ll be asking folks associated with the best of the best to stop in here for a visit, to share with us what their conference is about and why it would benefit you as a writer to attend. The first conference spotlight will happen next week, when Rachel Williams, director of the Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference joins us. So stay tuned!

17 Responses to A Gathering of Twitches

  1. Rick Barry February 22, 2012 at 4:52 am #

    Karen, although I’ve near heard the description “twitchy” before, I totally understand. When I’m writing, my wife knows that she must stand beside me and say, “I need 100% of your attention for a moment.” At that point I can resurface from the sub-reality I’ve created and actually hear what she is saying.

    As for writers’ conferences, amen and amen. Each year I crave a minimum of one major gathering of writers, editors, and agents. Conferences are educating, inspiring, motivating, and just plain fun for anyone smitten with the creative bug!

  2. Beth February 22, 2012 at 7:14 am #

    I love this! What a great word for all of the things I think and do to and now know what to call it, Twitch!!

  3. Connie Almony February 22, 2012 at 7:14 am #

    Oh, the milk in the oven line made me laugh. I thought I was the only one who did that. My husband works from home and needs to chat with someone a little too often. He thinks I’m home, too. But in reality I’m far, far away. When he speaks to me, it’s like being sucked back into reality through a time-warp portal and is usually accompanied by an LP scratching noise. Ugh! And yes, it was wonderful, last year, to attend the ACFW Conference and hang out with all the other “non-normals.” I hope to attend more. Can’t wait to read about them. Thanks for reminding me there are others out there with this affliction :o).

  4. Kathryn February 22, 2012 at 8:51 am #

    Oh Karen, this post makes me smile.

    While, I too, have a supportive, helpful, (yes, a gun question also) and indulgent (I forget we need to have dinner) Sweet Husband, sharing our “make-believe” world with other like-minded folks is pure joy. Conferences are worth the time, effort and money! Looking forward to meeting those you’ll be introducing.

  5. Patrick February 22, 2012 at 9:14 am #

    I know I’m getting the twitchies when I start calling my wife Judy “Jerusha” or “Jenny” or Reuben …

  6. Janet Ann Collins February 22, 2012 at 9:40 am #

    One year at Mount Hermon I overheard an author and agent who were sitting in the lounge discussing how to kill someone. Nobody around was the least bit disturbed, but I couldn’t help imagining what might happen if they’d held that conversation out in the “real world.” Hmmmn… Maybe that could be a plot idea. Twitchies, unite!

  7. Lindsay Harrel February 22, 2012 at 9:57 am #

    So true. I’m looking forward to ACFW this year for just the reasons you mentioned here.

    Question for you, Karen. I know you are an agent, but are you still writing and getting your books published (I’ve read your work: loved it)? If so, it’s a wonder you even have the time to buy milk in the first place! :)

  8. Donna Pyle February 22, 2012 at 10:16 am #

    So THAT’S what it’s called! My friends have tried to label it, but now I can tell them I’m just “twitching.” Love it! And you’re 100% right about writers’ conferences. Invaluable and necessary on so many levels. Thanks for a great post!

  9. Jan Cline February 22, 2012 at 10:29 am #

    Hi Karen,
    Great post and you are so right about writer’s conferences. I am attending Mt. Hermon for the first time this year and I’m so excited. In 2011 I started a conference here in my city. Our second one is coming up March 16 & 17. We should have about 90 attendees this year and most of them will be first time conference goers. I am passionate about encouraging writers to attend conferences – I would be a conference junkie if I had limitless funds. So many don’t understand the value of community.
    I hope to have a chance to meet you at Mt. Hermon!
    Jan Cline

  10. Angela Breidenbach February 22, 2012 at 10:48 am #

    I love writing conferences. It’s so much fun to “click” with all the other people there. No more blank stares. No more wondering if we’re normal, lol. It’s really fun to watch someone, who has been trying to go the writing life alone, walk into a writing conference. You don’t just see a light bulb go on. You see, in their eyes, all the stars in the night sky light up in daylight. You see their spirit lift them into exultant joy. They recognize and embrace who they were made to be.
    Angie Breidenbach

  11. Robin Patchen February 22, 2012 at 11:23 am #

    Proud to be a twitch! Love the word, and it’s so true.

    I’ve attended three writers’ conferences now, and I have two planned for this year including ACFW. The opportunity to visit with editors and agents and learn from those much more knowledgeable than myself is a definite benefit, but the encouragement I feel from other writers is priceless. It’s the only place you can talk out loud to yourself where nobody else will look at you like you need a straight jacket. I was talking to myself in the bathroom at ACFW in St. Louis when another woman walked in. She smiled and said, “It’s okay. I’m a writer, too.” Priceless.

  12. Ruth Douthitt February 22, 2012 at 1:06 pm #

    Great post. This is so true!! I have gleaned so much fron writer’s conferences and will attend more this year!

    Meeting other writers inspires me…gives me hope…and challenges me, too. For instance, I met one writer at a conference recently who has several books published, has an agent, yet he still is self-publishing books through Amazon to have even more of his work out there.

    Great idea! I plan to do the same this year.

  13. Sara Baysinger February 22, 2012 at 10:20 pm #

    I love this post! And what a creative name for those of us who often get too caught up in our own stories to pay attention to the real world. I’m attending the Mount Hermon conference for the first time this year. I’m stoked. What a blessing it is to congregate with other twitches out there!

  14. Cathi-Lyn Dyck February 22, 2012 at 10:27 pm #

    Ms. Ball, this is just absolutely the truth of my writing life. My poor dear husband is my technical advisor…and he knows when to watch the stove so I don’t burn the house down!

    I’m in Canada, but greatly looking forward to attending ACFW this fall. The experience was unparalleled when I attended in 2010.

  15. Jennifer M February 23, 2012 at 6:18 am #

    Did you know that if you inject methyl hydrate into the basement electrical wires with a fine syringe then the arson investigators can’t see the injection site because the heat of the fire will melt the wire casing and will divert the investigation form arson to electrical faults.
    You know, in case you’re curious.

    Writer’s conference or sports for my very athletic kids? Maybe in few years they’ll take up chess.

  16. Mesu Andrews February 28, 2012 at 3:10 pm #

    TWITCHY! A new favorite word! …another habit “normal” people don’t get…screaming out a new favorite word discovered in the middle of a conversation or a blog post.

    Yep, you nailed it, Karen. Those writers’ conferences are a beautiful, homecoming for us twitchers.

  17. Connie Terpack March 4, 2014 at 10:05 pm #

    I loved this! I would hate to hear the conversation our husbands would have about us. My husband and I seem to be polar opposites, but we’ve survived for 45 years!
    My friends and family are understanding, but like you’ve said, they don’t truly understand. That doesn’t matter. I have a good time writing about and talking to my characters–mostly arguing when they do something I hadn’t planned. Earlier, I was working on reading emails when Joshua, a character in the next book in the docket, interrupted with the fact that his family owns a huge ranch which would be a perfect place for the heroine to hide.
    Twitchy is such a clever way of describing it; but since I have a seizure disorder, I’d rather find another term. I may stick with “quirky”. I often zone-out when I’m talking with someone because something they said triggered an idea for a scene or a whole new book. It may or many not be related to what we’re talking about. I’m like Mesu. I sometimes yell, “Oh, that would be great…”, and give a brief description of what’s running in my mind.
    I have yet to attend a writers conference, but it sounds like they are wonderful. I’ll have to plan on going soon.

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