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