Friday, August 3, 2012

The Introvert's Guide to Socializing

Today is the first day of the annual SCBWI conference in Los Angeles, and as you read this, I am attending for the first time. If my experience at ALA or any of the book signings/launches I’ve attended recently is any indication, I’m having pretty much The Best Time Ever.

But it took me a long time to crawl out of my writer’s cave and meet other weirdos like me. In fact, I’ve lived in Los Angeles for five years and this is my first time going to any SCBWI event. I already had an agent and a book deal before I started venturing out into the writer’s community. And even though I was desperate to meet other authors in similar places in their lives, I was terrified.

I’m an introvert. I’m also shy. From what I understand, these are two different things. An introvert enjoys time with people, but gathers strength from being alone. They recharge when they have time to themselves. A shy person has difficulties in social situations. They may be anxious or awkward or just don’t know what to say.

I am definitely both of those things. And judging by the writers I know, I bet a lot of you are too. We live in our heads, and it feels almost rude when someone wants to do something crazy like engage us in conversation. Can’t you see I’m thinking here? 


In fact, when I’ve talked to other writers about shyness and social anxiety more than once I’ve gotten a, “no, you don’t understand. Mine is really bad.”

I do understand. I’ve had to deal with the Annoying Questions, the questions us introverts have to answer (or, in my case, ignore) a hundred times: “Why are you so quiet?” “Are you bored?” “What are you thinking?” “You really don’t talk, do you?” I understand the annoyance and anxiety and the very strong urge to just stay home and avoid new people and situations entirely.

But, one of the things I had to deal with was the fact that you can’t expect to be a hermit as a published writer. A huge amount of book promotion is left up to the writer, and going out into the writing community seemed like a good first step. So, I sucked it up and started going to book signings and book launches and conferences.

And it was really hard. I came home shaky and nervous. I was almost in tears at two events. I’ve felt awkward and weird and uncomfortable and I’ve wanted to leave five minutes in. (I told you I understood.)

But I stayed. And guess what happened?

People were really, really nice. Everyone from writers still trying to get an agent to authors with multiple books published were incredibly welcoming. I felt a little dumb for being so scared.

So here’s what worked for me:

1. I never thought of it as “networking.” I didn’t go to an event hoping to get an author to agree to blurb my debut or with the goal of getting anyone to help my career in any way. I went to make friends.

2. I went by myself. Standing in the corner alone is awkward. If you’re by yourself, you’re forced to step out and say hi. (Or try and force yourself. I too can handle the awkwardness of standing alone at an event where everyone is socializing. Pretend for a minute that you can’t.)

3. I used Facebook/Twitter/Lucky 13s to figure out who would be there. Then I had someone to look for at the event who (sort of) knew me.

4. If I saw someone I wanted to meet, I went and hung out in the general vicinity like a big creeper and waited for an opening. Hey, it works. (Just don’t stalk/interrupt.)

5. I often followed up on Twitter the next day. Let’s be honest, I’m more comfortable behind a computer. Getting to chat with someone on Twitter before the next event is often really helpful.





Amy Tintera is a full-time writer living in Los Angeles, CA. HarperTeen will publish her debut novel, REBOOT, in Summer 2013. Visit her website and blog: amytintera.com, add REBOOT to your Goodreads or follow her on Twitter: @amytintera

17 comments:

  1. Thanks for this post, Amy! You pretty much said everything that runs through my head on a daily basis in terms of dealing with shyness and being introverted. And I agree a lot of writers feel this way. And thanks for sharing what works for you! I'm going to remember your advice!

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    1. Thanks, Elsie! I'm glad I'm not alone! :)

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  2. Um, I love this post so much. SO, so much. It's like you're in my head and thinking my thoughts! I actually didn't realize how common it was for writers to be introverts, but it totally makes me feel better knowing I'm not alone. And your post inspires me, because I am TERRIFIED to go to events (especially alone!). Thanks for sharing :)

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    1. Aww, thank you, Amanda! I'm so glad I inspired you to go to events. They're really fun, I promise!

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  3. I find that I definitely go through phases. Some days I'm much more introverted than others. And yes, parties and events with large number of people are terrifying! Thanks for the post, Amy!

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    1. It's true, some days I feel like being social comes a bit easier (although never as easily as those extroverts!).

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  4. I really appreciate your honest and believable suggestions. I hate those "why are you quiet" and "just get over it" comments. Also I think it's frustrating when people confuse nervousness with true anxiety. Anxiety doesn't really go away; I have to manage my anxiety, I can't just make it go away. Nervousness is a breeze compared to panic attacks.

    Seems like you've found a way to be in the world but still be YOU and that's great. huzzah!

    I wonder, do you feel the same when you're put in FRONT of people as when you have to mingle? I've been teaching for so long that I have very different anxieties when I'm mingling, whereas I'm pretty good if I'm at the front of a group of people. Wonder if others see similar distinctions?

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    1. Ugh, the "just get over it" comments are the worst! If I could have gotten over being shy I would have done it years ago!

      I hadn't thought about the difference between being in front of people and mingling, but now that you mention it, mingling is scarier. I think it's easier to talk AT people than WITH them. Keeping a conversation going, especially with someone I don't know well, is hard for me. And while talking in front of a group of people makes me nervous, it seems easier in a way.

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  5. Whatup Amy!

    Nice post. I don't consider myself shy, but I also don't care for how artificial some of these networking functions can be. I recently tried GrubWithUs.com and had a great experience and recommend it to you. Without intending on sounding like some commercial, it's a much more organic way of meeting about 6-8 other people at once who have similar interests, and afterwards you feel like you had quality conversations. It's all over a set menu of food, so if the people are duds, at least you checked out a trendy place you probably had no idea existed, but I've had nothing but good experiences. The conversation tends to flow quite nicely (between the food and people's common interests).

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    1. Google sign in failed me. It's Eric Levine.

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    2. That sounds awesome, Eric! I'm going to check it out.

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  6. Thanks for the tips. Because I'm shy and introverted. Going to a big SCBWI conference or doing a book signing is scary. Thanks for making it feel more manageable. And hope you're enjoying the LA conference.

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  7. Thanks for this post, Amy. I'm so with you.

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  8. Yep. I think I present not-shy, but inside I'm typically a ball of nerves.

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  9. I'm not alone!!! Thank you! Enjoy the conference!

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  10. Amy, your post is really inspiring to all of us introverts. And it's equally inspiring to know there are so many of us! I too was very nervous attending my first big SCBWI event (the New York conference last January). Thank goodness it was filled with other folks like me. :)

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  11. Building self esteem and drawing lines for self improvement is a choice, not a rule or a talent. shy mastery guide article

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