A significant percentage of us who write for a living are introverts. Unfortunately, extroverts, who think they rule the universe, consider being an introvert the equivalent of having a third arm growing out of your forehead. It’s not. Introversion simply means, “preferring lower-stimulation environments”, but unfortunately is often interpreted as being antisocial. Again, it’s not.
Introversion is confused with shyness. Shyness is the fear of negative judgment, and introversion is a preference for quiet, minimally stimulating environments.
Many of our societal institutions, e.g., schools, businesses and yes, writers’ conferences, are designed mostly for extroverts and their need for constant stimulation.
So, what to do if you’re a writer and want to attend a conference – how can you get the most out of it?
- Yes, You Should Attend.
It may mean temporarily moving out of your comfort zone, but there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s only temporary and the benefits can be well worth it. As an introvert, you may have to manage it differently. You may have to plan a bit more than most. Each day, plan to do at least one thing that requires stretching yourself, such as requesting an appointment with an agent or editor.
- Stop Apologizing.
Before you event arrive at the conference, just in general – stop apologizing. There is nothing wrong with you. If someone else doesn’t “get you” because you’re an introvert – that’s their problem. Set goals for yourself. They will help you push yourself when you start to get tired
- Take Advantage of Social Media & Volunteer
Most conferences use hashtags on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) before the sessions start to get folks talking – take advantage of that.
Also, most conferences are looking for volunteers to help. This is a great way of forcing yourself to interact with others and immerse in the conference.
- Carve Out ‘Me-Time’
You introverts out there know what I mean. We have to have our ‘me-time’! I attended a week long professional training meeting once, where we broke up into teams of 5 people. Out teams were together each day from 8:00 am to midnight. After dinner each day, our team would continue to work on our project. Wednesday evening was a ‘free’ period and we could do as we pleased. Some folks went out as groups. I locked up in my hotel room, ordered room service and luxuriated in my ‘me-time’.
Whether it’s quiet time in your hotel room, a half-hour in the hotel gym or a walk outside, make self-care a priority in your schedule. Manage yours at the writers’ conference; you’ll enjoy it better.
- Ask Questions.
In conference sessions, it’s a good way to get confortable. If you’re talking to someone and the conversation seems to hit a lull, ask a question. It can be any question.
People love to talk about themselves – their jobs, their writing projects, their kids, have they been to this or other conferences – you get the picture. Then you can sit back and listen.
Here’s a little trick: Rather than try to talk over the loudmouths (which probably won’t work), hold your hand or finger in the air as you speak, so you aren’t interrupted, and speak softly. This forces everyone to lean into you to hear, which lends authority to what you have to say.
So, all you writer-introverts out there thinking of attending a writers’ conference – do it! You can enjoy it, learn a lot and may even make new friends – and still be an introvert.