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The Introvert Author: Stepping out of your comfort zone

Having attended several writing conferences and meet ups, I felt compelled to write this blog. You may or may not be surprised to learn I’m an introvert – depending on how well you know me. Now don’t get me wrong, I love to have a laugh and a joke (have you seen my twitter gifs?) and there’s nothing more I enjoy than having a giggle with my friends. But attending events on my own used to bring me out in a cold sweat. 

The first year I attended a crime writer’s event I was excited but mortified. I didn’t know many people, and felt like a spare part as I milled around the crowds, seeing lots of people I admired, but lacked the courage to approach. But I knew I’d be kicking myself if I didn’t ask for a selfie at the very least, so I pushed myself forward in order to say hello. Being an introvert doesn’t mean I’m shy or I that dislike people, it just means I’m out of my comfort zone in large crowds.

Awkwardness

It came as a lovely surprise to find out I’m not the only one. Despite my awkwardness, I’ve still pushed myself forward and attended many more events. I’m pleased to say that it gets easier each time. I recently attended Bristol and got chatting an author at the bar. A fellow introvert, he was the loveliest man you could meet, but like me, he found it difficult being away from the comforts of home. Hours passed as we chatted about our foibles, and it felt great to know I wasn’t such an oddball after all. Apparently, us creative types are known for it, because we turn our thoughts inwards when it comes to our work. I attended Theakston’s Crime Festival this year, and I can honestly say that I enjoyed every second. I was still drained by ten o clock, (introverts don’t tend to be party animals) but the friendships I forged eased the awkwardness I may have once felt. Shoe shopping with a certain author friend *ahem Mel Sherratt* may have eased the pain!

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Travel

When I first came to live in the UK, I couldn’t travel on my own. I was terrified of driving on the motorways. I was used to whizzing around winding country lanes, where the most dangerous thing you would encounter was a cow or sheep on the road. Even as a police officer, I left motorway driving to my shift partner, and it’s only in recent years that I’ve managed to negotiate public transport. As much as I loved London, my stomach churned at the thought of entering the underground, and I’d feel physically sick at the thoughts of being in such an enclosed space with so many people.

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Overcoming My Fears

I knew the only way to overcome my fear was to visit London on my own. The first few times I got lost – and one night I arrived two hours late to my agent’s Christmas party. But step by step I gained in confidence. Preparation was key, as well as some nifty tube apps. I still get lost, but I don’t panic anymore. I’m proud that I’ve not allowed my fears to overcome me. This year I attended Bristol and Harrogate on my own – both journeys took over five hours by train, with changes in London as well as tube stops. Because I’ve attended before, I knew lots of lovely people, so I wasn’t wandering around lost and alone.

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Going Public

I hope that by going public I can help authors who are nervous about attending events on their own. Social media is great, but you really can’t beat meeting people face to face. Being an introvert is nothing to be ashamed of. I used to beat myself up over it so many times, envying my extrovert friends – you know the ones, the social butterflies who glide effortlessly around the room. Now I wouldn’t change my personality type for anything, because it helps me create the wonderfully formed worlds I live in while writing my books – even if I do freak myself out from time to time. Did you know J.K. Rowling is an introvert? Barak Obama and Mark Zuckerburg are too. This article provides some funny cartoons to make you chuckle. 

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My Tips

So what are my tips? Do what you can, and don’t beat yourself up over it. If you want to go back to your room early during a convention then that’s fine, but if you get invited out to dinner, then say yes. You may still find yourself in the toilets as you catch your breath, but hey, you won’t be alone! Writing is such a solitary vocation, it’s hardly any wonder we need time to acclimatise to being out amongst the crowds. Do you know an introvert? Then give them a chance, they’re actually a lot of fun, once you get to know them. So are you an introvert? Check out this great article by the Huffington Post to find out – see number 22, you may be surprised.

I love hearing from my readers, don’t forget to comment below!

 

Image courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons, az quotes and Aaron T. Caycedo-Kimura.

This Post Has 20 Comments

  1. As a debut author who struggles with ‘mingling’ and has been known to hide behind doors I found this immensely comforting!

    1. Thanks Jackie, it seems to go with the territory, but at least you know you’re far from alone 😉

  2. Not an author but introvert reader/blogger for sure. It took me over a years to dare to respond to my first tweet ;). I have spent years being paranoid about meeting people, hating the feeling that by talking to someone I’m imposing upon them and they don’t really want to hear from me. I can work myself up into a real depression over it, feeling very alone ina room full of people, which at my age is very hard to get over. I know I may appear stand-offish, but if someone speaks to me, I’m actually happy to join in, I just can’t instigate it. I people watch and I hide in plain sight – my two specialities.

    Strangely enough, in the real world I am the top line manager in a department of over 400 people where I have to interact with people all day, every day, group presentations etc, but find this easier as I can adopt a false persona, a facade that I can hide behind.

    I’ll be honest, I saw you at the event in Bristol and wanted to say hi, but it is too hard to make the first move. I tend to operate very much incognito outside of work. Much easier to hide and just interact on the internet, even if I do know there are loads like me out there. You’re still all too scary.

    1. Hi Jen
      I always tell people to approach me too! It seems daft doesn’t it, because I was exactly the same. I would love to have met you! Next year we’ll have to arrange it beforehand, and it’s like you say, once you get talking you aren’t stuck for words. When I was in the police I had no qualms about entering a busy pub to arrest a suspect, or get involved in a raid, but as you say, it’s easy to hide behind a role. I’m so happy to see your comments though, it helps other readers to know they’re not alone. xx

  3. Wow this practically describes me to a T! Thank you for blogging about this Caroline, makes me feel so much better to know that other folk have that inner dread too and how exhausting it can be to be out there! The stuff about the down time and recharging your batteries made so much sense to me! Xx

  4. I find this so hard to believe about you, Caroline! You’re always such a warm and friendly person! I could never travel anywhere alone, although I don’t think I’m an introvert, I just have a genuine phobia about getting lost. We all have our problems, but sadly we don’t all have your courage. You’re an inspiration.

    1. Thanks so much Leigh, once I get to know people I’m fine, it’s just that initial contact. I’m the queen of getting lost, I sometimes think I’ve been born without a sense of direction. I’m so glad you’ve got a travelling companion, it’s much nicer not to travel alone 🙂

  5. Hi Caroline, this was such a reassuring post and I could identify with a lot of it. I’m okay travelling but once I’m there … I hate meeting people in person for the first time, I’m sure I’m such a let down to either what they might be expecting or, if they’ve had no contact with me before, they probably think I’m boring. I’m fine once I know them and can relax. I’m never sure if I’m shy or an introvert. Maybe a bit of both.
    Sue
    🙂

  6. Brilliant post, Caroline. One I can definitely relate to. Good on you for sharing your thoughts. They are a real comfort. Great advice there in the Tips section too 🙂

  7. Thank you for this and am glad I’ve discovered I’m not alone. Being creative is one thing, putting your work up for public scrutiny is sometimes like walking down the street in your underwear. And in common with many of the other comments above, meeting strangers, be they writers or readers, can at times be a little daunting. However, I have to say so far everyone has been fabulous.

  8. Thanks for putting the introvert in perspective. I’m one and can identify with a lot of what you said. It’s reassuring knowing there are others out there who feel like I do in crowds. And as you said, it’s not that we’re shy; just that we prefer our own company most of the time.

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