The San Miguel Writers' Conference


Here's why the conference rocked:


-Naps on the back lawn of the hotel. Seriously, they lay out blankets and pillows and you can rest while listening to the fountains. 


-Excursions to places like La Gruta Hot Springs


-A fiesta with tequila shots, fire jugglers, native dancers, and authentic Mexican food (with a guest appearance by a donkey)


Here's why I wen to the conference--four words: Escape February in Chicago. But seriously, I went because I'd heard great things about the conference, and I love visiting (warm) new places. Because I teach English as a Second Language, I also have an interest in Spanish-speaking cultures. 


But, while I was there, I found that there was another reason why I went: to be nothing. Really, this was the biggest thing. In San Miquel, I was not a teacher or a presenter or a mother or a wife or even a writer. I was an absorber. I had just turned in my memoir revisions to my editor the week before the conference, and after three months of living at Starbucks on nights and weekends and juggling writing and a full-time job and teaching and being a mom and a wife, I wanted to be nothing. I'd never been to San Miguel, and I didn't have any friends who were going, and my Spanish is laughable. There were no ties and expectations, and that's exactly what I wanted. The freedom to do nothing besides take it all in. 


I did many things I haven't done in a while: I napped. I read. I sat. It was really really hard. The luxury of it all made me feel incredibly guilty. Every ounce of me believed that I should use my free time to answer work emails, plan lessons, read student manuscripts, network, write. But I forced my brain to do something it hasn't done in forever--follow its natural impulse. Skip the networky-lunch and walk. Lie in bed instead of answering emails. Eat at restaurants by myself and journal. I allowed myself every impulse. And guess what? Tons of writing ideas came to me during that time. I wasn't searching for them, but they came. 


I could have met more people, gone to every single session, used the free time to catch up on work, and that probably would have benefitted me in some way, but I didn't. And it made all the difference for my writing. 


So, can you give yourself permission to press pause for an hour, a day, or a weekend and follow your soul's impulses instead of your brain's? 


grubstreet Image
About the Author

Nadine Kenney Johnstone is the author of the memoir, Of This Much I'm Sure, which was named Book of the Year by the Chicago Writers Association. Her infertility story has appeared in Cosmopolitan, Today’s Parent, MindBodyGreen, Metro, and Chicago Health Magazine, among others. She teaches at Loyola University and received her MFA from Columbia College in Chicago. Her other work has been featured in various magazines and anthologies, including Chicago Magazine, PANK, and The Magic of Memoir. Nadine is a writing coach who presents at conferences internationally. She lives near Chicago with her family.

See other articles by Nadine Johnstone
by Nadine Johnstone


The Writing Life

Rate this!

Current rating: 4