Writing attracts quiet, soft introverted people. We like to write in the dark. We like to sit by ourselves. We like to cuddle with our fur babies and muse over the worlds that we create without interruption from real life. Often, the reason we write is because its easier than talking to others and living in their busy world.
When we start growing our hobby into something more professional, we are confronted by the very extroverted truth: if you want to write professionally you must come out of your comfortable, quite places, leave your fur babies behind and… talk to people.
Writing conferences, critique groups, querying agents and (if you’re lucky enough) book signings, interviews and all the things that come with publishing are all very social oriented. The high energy demands can be taxing on us introverts. We can easily be caught in a tight cycle of anxiety- I want to be a writer because it suits all these introverted qualities I have, but because I want to be a writer I must work around those same qualities.
At least once every conference I look around myself, and think “why are we here when we would so much rather be snuggled up with our cats?”
And the answer is- it’s worth it. So worth it. And, it can be fun!
Going to a writing conference will help you meet the very people who will launch your manuscript to success. You will learn tips and strategies that will propel you from your writer’s block. Conferences give you quality one on one time with agents and publishers. Some conferences have banquets and dances and workshops where you can let your creative kite fly. There is no end to the possibilities. Still, while going to a conference is among the very best thing you can do for your writing, there are still challenges.
Conference season is upon us and if you’re especially nervous, or you dreading that feeling of exhaustion, I want to help you find ways to increase the fun. Here are a couple tips to make your experience the most enjoyable and beneficial it can be:
1. Bring business cards, and a small notebook for contacts.
There are two reasons this is a great tool for an introvert. For one, part of the exhaustion of talking to people comes from not seeing the end in sight. How long do you let a conversation go on? When is it polite to say goodbye to a Chatty Kathy? What if you say goodbye and they keep talking. Having a business card will give you an out. Pull out your card, hand it to your new friend, tell them it was so nice talking to them about their book, and tell them you’d love to follow them on whatever social media site they reside. Have them give you their information, then remind them that they now have yours, and then that’s it- there’s nothing more to say, you have a clean break to part ways. It’s the ultimate last chapter to a conversation.
Also, if you’ve tapped out your stamina for socializing, or you’d like to hurry off to a class, it can give you the ability to revisit a social encounter in a less taxing place. Now that you have their information and they have yours, you are free to send them an email or a private message and revisit the topic you left off on.
Using this tip will ensure you can care for yourself and your social limit and cultivate a rich group of writing friends who feel important and special to you.
2. Take some time for yourself
It might feel tempting to fit as many classes or social experiences in as you can. You paid to be a part of this conference because there are so many good speakers and you want to soak it all in, but it is so important to know your limits. If you are exhausted from the stimulation of the big crowds and the conversations, then you won’t absorb all the information you are so excited about. Give yourself permission to take an hour to recoup. Step outside, find a quiet corner, plug in your headphones. When you do take a moment to yourself I would suggest avoiding social media because it often doesn’t have the same rejuvenating affects as personal time does. Instead, work on your manuscript, apply all the things you’ve learned. Or, take a moment to reflect on your time. If it suits you, try meditating or deep breathing- something that will truly leave you feeling refreshed.
3. Come with speaking points
Not all introverts are anxiety ridden, but a lot of us are. It may cause you stress to think about initiating small talk or promoting yourself. For example, you can make it a goal to ask everyone you sit next to about their main character, about their favorite class so far, or whether they have a blog/facebook page/twitter. Don’t feel weird about rehearsing talking points. I suggest using a mirror- the more familiar you are with the whole presentation the more comfortable you’ll be. Practicing over, and over again helps the words come out smoothly even when your hearts racing. If the mirror is too weird for you, find a trusted friend. By overcoming the stress of the small talk, you can delve into a deeper conversation that allows for friendships (and possibly book deals) to grow.
4. Don’t underestimate the power of comfortable silence.
The person you’re sitting next to is probably introverted, too. Don’t feel like you need to fill up all the time you have together with words. Maybe the two of you could share a comfortable silence- enjoying the fact that you are both in a place of growth and knowledge and fun, without the need to intrude on each other’s space. Give yourself permission to not feel guilty or awkward in these situations.
5. Take a picture of your fur baby.
Or anything else that brings you some peace. In the same way that words of affirmation posted around your writing area can give you a positive push, a picture of the thing that brings you comfort can relax you when you can’t actually snuggle with them in the comfort of your own home.
6. Prep efficiently before you pitch.
Do research on the agents and prepare a crisp pitch before you go. But, if you’re still feeling nervous, sit in on a panel your agent is speaking in. A lot of introverts feel more comfortable socializing if they can sit on the outskirts until they’re ready to jump in. By asking genuine and applicable questions during that panel you create a chance to connect with and talk to the agent as a person, and not someone who will be judging your work. This is a chance to meet them as a person with their own set of likes and dreams and idiosyncrasies, just like you.
Writing conferences are a wonderful way to establish a network of people who will boost you in your efforts, commiserate with you on your failures, and teach you all the things that will help you reach your goals. No person is an island unto themselves, but for some of us, we must work a little harder to live in that social circus ring. I hope these tips help your writing conference become a more comfortable and fruitful experience. I’d love to hear your favorite conference experiences! If you would like more information on writing conferences HERE and HERE are some links to some of my favorite articles.
We're all writers, we're all moms, writing our way through the "brambles" of life and our stories.