Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Time Management Tuesday: Is Stroking My Ego A Good Use Of Time?

A couple of months ago, the administrators of a regional writers' conference announced next year's conference theme. Lo' and behold, not only did I actually understand the theme, I  liked it. Very rare, people. Very rare. It was something I became interested in just this past winter.

As a result, I decided I'd submit workshop proposals for next year's conference. I say "proposals," because the conference wants faculty to teach two workshops in order to cut down on administration and costs. I have two workshops I've led in the past that I thought would fit the theme well. I didn't think it would require a lot of time to work up the proposals, because I know this material. Because I'd taught the workshops in the past, I thought I'd be able to handle teaching both of them over one weekend. I was a woman with a plan.

Then I learned last week that next year all faculty are expected to attend the entire conference, not just the days they teach, as has been the case in the past.

This is not a drastic imposition. The conference is only three days, not three weeks. In fact, it's probably closer to two and a half days. Plus I live only an hour away from the conference site, so I could (I assume) cut out for the evenings and wander in for my first workshop each morning while whatever opening event is running. I really like conferences for the workshops, not the rubbing shoulders, so, though I'd have to pay for at least a day of conference time I may end up not wanting, at least I wouldn't have to find something to do during the long evenings or early in the morning before the workshops started. But going home each night also means I won't have a hotel room to escape to during the day to work or nap, which is what I've heard other writers do when they can't find workshops to fill all those conference hours.

Thinking about how I would manage time if I'm on the conference faculty next year has led me to think about other time-related issues involved with teaching at a conference. There are a number of them. Among them what will I be getting for my investment of time? Should I or should I not submit workshop proposals?

Reasons To Submit Proposals

Vanity, Total Vanity. If my proposals are accepted and I make the conference faculty, I will feel that, despite whatever career setbacks I've experienced over the years, I am still a contender. I am still one of the writer tribe. I know this is the case because I was on the faculty several years ago and felt very tribal. This is pretty much the only reason I want to do this, to pump up my ego. Try as I will, I cannot come up with another one.

Reasons Not To Submit Proposals

Submitting Takes Time.While the sponsoring agency requires faculty to teach two workshops, it suggests we submit proposals for three or four for its staff to choose from. This would increase our odds of having workshops chosen, but it will also increase our workload substantially now. If you have ever worked as a consultant or known people who have, responding to Requests for Proposals in order to get jobs is a financial black hole.  It takes time to put proposals together. Time is money. The money consultants make is for the work they are proposing to do, not for the work they did on the proposals. They never get that back. They may consider it the cost of doing business, but it's still a cost.

For writers, the time used on creating workshop proposals is time we could be generating work or submitting. Some writers who have a portfolio of workshops on hand may not have to put that much time into writing a proposal. You may recall that right now I only have two that I think will fit the theme. If I want to submit more, I'll have to put in time starting from scratch to come up with others. Even if I end up being selected for next year's faculty, there's no financial return on the time it will take to make the proposals.

If the submitted proposals are rejected, I will still have some planned workshops that I could use somewhere else. So I could justify the use of time that way. I have to say, though, that I've had a few proposals rejected over the years and as of today have not used them anywhere else. An outline is required with the workshop proposals. If rejected, that outline could become an article I could submit. Again, this hasn't gone anywhere in the past.

Workshop Prep Takes Time. I know writers who have years of experience teaching grade school or high school or who are adjunct writing teachers at the college level. My guess is that they're skilled enough and comfortable enough that they don't need the weeks of prep time that I put in before a presentation. If we're talking new material, I'll start working months ahead of time, creating a script, designing slides, working on timing. If the two workshops I think fit the theme were selected, things shouldn't be that bad because I'll have run variations of them before. But if I were to come up with a third or even fourth workshop proposal and have that selected, that's another thing. Again, this is all time I could put toward generating new work or submitting.

Performance Anxiety. A large part of the reason I put in so much prep time. The more time I put into prep, the less anxious I am. One of the reasons I make appearances is to prove to myself that I'm tough enough to deal with performance anxiety. I recognize that that may not be particularly healthy. In fact, I think at least one family member has told me as much.

Income Flow. I haven't seen any information on what the sponsoring agency is offering for compensation next year, but when I taught in the past there was a small honorarium, the conference registration fee was waived for the day I taught, and I was offered a room for the night I taught. So if my proposals were accepted, the real income generated would be that honorarium.

However, recall that next year faculty need to attend the entire conference, meaning we'll be paying conference fees for the day(s) we don't teach. As conferences go, the fees for this one are quite reasonable. But depending on which day(s) I'm teaching and which day(s) I have to attend and pay my fee, I could end up spending nearly as much to attend the conference as I'd make for teaching.  Which is why I didn't put "Generate Income" under "Reasons To Submit Proposals." In reality, I may not be generating any.

What To Do?

Given that I have only one very shallow reason for submitting workshop proposals to this conference, I think it's pretty obvious that in terms of time, there's very little reason for me to do it. In the best case scenario, one in which my proposals are selected for the conference, I'd end up taking a lot of time from writing just to make me feel good. I felt pretty good the last two years attending the conference without being on the faculty. I can do that with a whole lot less effort.

I have until August 1st to submit, so perhaps I'll change my mind. We'll probably discuss this at my writers' group next week. Maybe someone there will have a really compelling reason to try get on the conference faculty. 


Unknown said...

That's a very interesting take on submitting to conference (and though I know you didn't want to mention the specific conference, I know which one you are talking about). I agree with you that if it's only for the ego boost, it's probably not worth pitching. And, yes, monetarily it will probably end up being a wash. I actually really enjoy teaching writing and publishing workshops to kids and adults. It's a good credential in that regard, too, for future workshop opportunities. So for me it's generally worth it.

Gail Gauthier said...

I agree that being on the faculty of conferences is a good credential. But I did teach here once, so I'm hoping I've got the credential. I'm also guessing that you people who enjoy teaching can do your workshop planning faster than someone like I can. Less investment of time and more pleasure in the time you do invest. Pitch, Katie!