Testing the Truth

Years ago, after a class on taxes at a writers conference, an attendee shook her head. “That teacher’s going to get a lot of people in trouble.” I couldn’t deny that some of the suggestions offered seemed risky. I disregarded most of what I’d heard as I made my way out the door.

This experience is rare, but it does happen. Conference directors engage well-known, established instructors for workshops. Teachers discuss areas they know cold. For instance, as a literary agent and past book author, I’m asked to teach on such topics as approaching agents, compiling proposals, working with agents, and the writing craft. I’m not in demand to teach on creating podcasts or building an Instagram platform. If asked to teach on either of those topics, I’d decline.

Good conference instructors realize the responsibility involved in taking on a workshop. I’m cognizant that writers have paid significant fees to participate. At a minimum, writers sacrifice their time to be in my class instead of someone else’s. I do my best to impart accurate knowledge and to make wise use of everyone’s time.

However, even the most well-meaning teachers can be mistaken or misinformed. Or, perhaps their experience isn’t relevant to what is happening in your career or life, even if, in theory, it should be. Perhaps their worldview, though Christian, still contrasts with yours because you are different personalities and deal with problems and opportunities inversely. So you may leave a class in disagreement with some points made.

And that’s okay.

Classes, whether offered at a conference or through some other means, inform and inspire. They make writers think of the best way to approach their careers, armed with the best knowledge available. Any education, including that imparted by all of us here, should be considered, weighed, and contemplated through prayer.

11 Responses to Testing the Truth

  1. Kristen Joy Wilks April 29, 2021 at 5:36 am #

    Weighing information is such an important skill! When I first started collecting books on how to write I was so frustrated that the authors’ contradicted each other. But after reading more and more books, my knowledge base grew and I began to have the ability to pick out info that was outdated from info that stood the test of time. What a gift to have! I would have never gained that ability without slogging through some advice that was bad mixed in with the good. We need to gain this skill, although the process of doing so is certainly frustrating!

  2. DAMON J GRAY April 29, 2021 at 6:29 am #

    Like Kristen, I have been taken aback by what seemed contradictory or just bad advice from more experienced writers. Over time, I’ve come to understand that advice XYZ may not apply to situation ABC, but when I encounter or find myself in DEF, XYZ is quite applicable! At other times, I believe there are techniques that will work well for certain authors/personalities that would never fly for me. For example, I would never even try to write the way Anne Lamott writes, but it works well for her. Each of us needs to be open to instruction while still owning our own mind.

  3. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser April 29, 2021 at 6:47 am #

    I think that perhaps truth is in danger of being globally canceled; I pray for our nation, and for our world.

    They grin at you from your TV
    and tell you to obey,
    for the truth is, you must see,
    exactly what they say.
    There are a hundred genders;
    not two, defined at birth,
    and you can’t eat chicken tenders
    for they endanger Earth.
    Flaming riots in the street
    are protests, not disorder;
    good Christians should line up to greet
    coyotes at the border,
    and our leaders know you’ll understand
    when they place their mark upon your hand.

  4. Jay Payleitner April 29, 2021 at 7:24 am #

    Keynoting at a Writers’ Conference, in my session on “Storytelling,” I spoke about the benefit of taking CREATIVE LICENSE.

    To make a point, add humor, or keep a story interesting, a writer might need to stretch the truth. Even in a true personal story.

    After my session, a woman came up to me horrified that I would endorse lying to a group of Christian writers. She was so adamant that I did actually change the way I presented the idea in future talks. And, ever since, I’ve been a bit more careful in my own writing.

  5. Edie April 29, 2021 at 7:38 am #

    Tamela I’m so glad you shared this post! As a conference director, I do my best to engage people who share valuable and TRUE information, but we can’t know everything. We’re constantly reminding our attendees to NOT check their brains at the door, but to test everything! Blessings, E

    • Tamela Hancock Murray April 29, 2021 at 10:20 am #

      Thank you, Edie! I would trust any conference where you are involved!

  6. Sheri Dean Parmelee, Ph.D. April 29, 2021 at 1:23 pm #

    Thanks for sharing, Tamela. The best conferences I have ever been to are the ones for ACFW. That’s where I met both you and Steve and learned a font of information from you both.

  7. Carol Ruth Nicolet Loewen May 5, 2021 at 10:05 am #

    Thanks for this reminder, Tamela. We are always to “test the spirits” and what resonates with one hearer in a conference may not feel right or accurate to me. It’s important to take the wonderful lessons learned and sift through them for the truth God has for each of us.

  8. Sydney Yapoujian June 19, 2021 at 4:24 pm #

    A very good piece of advice, Tamela!

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