Thursday, September 05, 2019

Introversion 101: Survival Tips for Writers Who Would Rather Hide

By Jillian Boehme, @Jillian Boehme

Part of The Writer’s Life Series

JH: Being an introvert can be challenging for writers when it comes to promotion. The idea of putting themselves out there is a real and paralyzing fear. Jillian Boehme takes the podium today, to share tips on not letting an introvert nature hold you back.

Jillian is known to the online writing community as Authoress, hostess of Miss Snark’s First Victim, a blog for aspiring authors. In real life, she holds a degree in Music Education, sings with the Nashville Symphony Chorus, and homeschools her remaining youngster-at-home. She’s still crazy in love with her husband of more than thirty years and is happy to be surrounded by family and friends amid the rolling knolls of Middle Tennessee.

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Take it away Jillian…

First things first: “Introvert” is not a bad word.

Jillian Boehme
It often seems that the world is designed for extroverts—those who take large crowds by storm, dazzle everyone with their conversational skills, and don’t flinch when they need to shake hands with a stranger. For the introverted author (and I believe there are many of us), the thought of putting ourselves forward in public can be daunting, and even downright terrifying.

Introversion doesn’t mean “shyness” or “awkwardness” or “social ineptness” (though any of these might be present in an introvert who hasn’t found his footing). All it really means is that being around people drains your energy—and you need alone time to recharge. It also might mean that you dread anything that entails leaving your quiet writing corner and interfacing with others to promote your book.

And dread, if we allow it to grow, can paralyze us.

Recently, a colleague of mine whose first novel is currently on submission with editors lamented at how she couldn’t possibly introduce herself to people or—heaven forbid—read or talk to a crowd at an event. Her fear was palpable and not uncommon. While I don’t relate to the crowd part (I have a background in theater and music, and I actually enjoy public speaking), I strongly relate to the don’t-make-me-talk-to-strangers part.

Several months ago, I put myself to the test by introducing myself to my local YA librarian. It seems like such a small thing, but let’s be honest—I was nervous. What if the person at the desk wasn’t the librarian? What if I annoyed her? What if I sounded stupid? What if (fill in the blank)?

The librarian was lovely. She was glad to meet me and happy to take down all my information. Later that day she emailed me to discuss a possible library event and squealed on Twitter about having met me. The outcome of my nerve-inducing introduction was nothing but positive, and it was certainly a personal victory.

(Yes, victory. Because when something feels scary and we do it anyway, it means we’ve conquered something.)

So, how do we move from “I can’t do that” to “I will do that”?

1. Approach things one at a time. 

Sitting at home and thinking about all the things we want to do to pitch or promote our book is only going to overwhelm us. Decide what the next thing is that you’re going to do, whether it’s a verbal pitch to an agent or introducing yourself to a local bookseller—or even raising your hand to ask a question at a conference. Do that one thing and the next one will feel that much easier.

2. Give yourself permission to feel nervous—but not fearful. 

Nerves are normal, whether you’re facing an audition, a job interview, a performance, or sitting on a panel at a conference and taking about your debut novel. Allow yourself to be nervous, but don’t let the interview/performance/meeting grow bigger inside your brain than it really is.

3. Write a list of what-ifs. 

When anxiety escalates past nervousness, one of the best ways to combat it is to write down the what-ifs and then ask yourself what the worst possible outcome of each one would be. This diffuses the power of the what-ifs and decreases anxiety. Example: “What if someone asks me a question and I can’t think of the answer?” Possible answer: “I will tell them I can’t think of an answer. Maybe there will be an awkward moment of silence. Or maybe they will rephrase the question. In the end, the moment will pass and I will still be alive.”

4. Rebuke the lies you believe about yourself. 

This is huge. So many of us struggle with misbeliefs about ourselves that keep us from reaching our potential. Statements such as “I’m awkward” and “I’m too shy” and “I never know what to say” need to be expunged from your inner dialogue and replaced with self-empowering things like “I have quiet strength” and “I’m a good listener” and “I am brave”. The extrovert-friendly world we live in often leaves us feeling like less. We are not less. We are amazing, capable introverts.

5. Allow yourself plenty of time to recharge. 

We don’t crave alone time because we’re inherently anti-social—we crave it because it nourishes us. Make sure you’ve scheduled your out-in-the-world day so that you have plenty of time to curl up in a quiet room at the end (or in the middle) of it, feeding your soul with the peace and solitude it requires.

6. Embrace your introversion. 

You don’t need to be fixed or rehabilitated. What you do need is to accept who you are without allowing your social limitations (i.e., the boundaries your introversion requires of you) to define you. It’s not bad or wrong to be introverted—it’s part of the wonderful package of you. Focus on overcoming the things that trip you up instead of trying to deny an essential part of your identity.

In the end, we must all choose how much in-person interaction is appropriate. It’s important, though, to make choices according to what’s best for our careers and day-to-day lives and not based on avoiding things that make us break out in a sweat. Practice may not make perfect, but it will make you more confident and more comfortable in your skin.

As for me—I still squirm every time I need to step forward and introduce myself to a stranger. But the squirming no longer leads to avoidance, or even to serious bouts of nerves. I can say, “been there, done that” and move forward.

And you can do the same.

About Stormrise

If Rain weren’t a girl, she would be respected as a Neshu combat master. Instead, her gender dooms her to a colorless future. When an army of nomads invades her kingdom, and a draft forces every household to send one man to fight, Rain takes her chance to seize the life she wants.

Knowing she’ll be killed if she’s discovered, Rain purchases powder made from dragon magic that enables her to disguise herself as a boy. Then she hurries to the war camps, where she excels in her training―and wrestles with the voice that has taken shape inside her head. The voice of a dragon she never truly believed existed.

As war looms and Rain is enlisted into an elite, secret unit tasked with rescuing the High King, she begins to realize this dragon tincture may hold the key to her kingdom’s victory. For the dragons that once guarded her land have slumbered for centuries . . . and someone must awaken them to fight once more.

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1 comment:

  1. Solid advice.

    Another point about us introverts: It's believed that what we are is more aware and easily stimulated. Extroverts rush toward crowds because anything less may not hold their attention, while introverts can get what they need without a lot of people -- or with them, as long as we don't overload. Not a bad thing at all.