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Writing Industry, Writing Life

A Lonely Profession, Part I

Writing Quote-Ernest Hemingway
For a long time, writing was something I did in secret. Growing up, I didn’t know anyone that wrote as a profession. Any attempt to broach the subject of writing even as a hobby was brushed off -I was much better off and would be able to build a rapport with people by discussing music and not writing- so needless to say writing was lonely. I spent most of my time in a locked room with music in my ears and when I wanted advice, there were many books on the subject.

Writing became less lonely when I found fictionpress. I believe that interacting with people improved my writing (unlike what is stated in the quote above). I started out as a reviewer and got to chat with other writers about books.  I didn’t chat about my writing until I finished the first draft. That’s when writing seems to enter the public sphere. There are beta-readers, critique partners and then when you get into publishing, there’s marketing and promotions, events and conferences.

How do you deal with writing when it gets into the  public sphere?Are you a people person? Are you good at presenting yourself, talking to an audience, talking at panels? I know writers that were in performing arts from childhood and they come alive at this writing meets real word stage.

Me, not so much. I’m an engineer. No, I’m the engineer who enjoyed labs and research 80% of my work was independent and the other 20% was collaboration with other students. I’m no stranger to working solo. But guess what? I had to talk about my work. I had to communicate visually through poster presentations and talk at conferences because just like a business, you have to “sell” your research.  Like getting your first draft done in writing and then going into the public space, you get your results in research, write the paper and then go into the public space. It’s like a cycle. Alone, People, Alone, People…. until I started work at a manufacturing plant and  I was surrounded by people ALL the time. Open office space, open manufacturing space, you get the gist.
chart_thumb[2]I knew from childhood that talking with large groups of people drained me.  I give energy in social interactions (more people=more interactions= TIRED). I’m not shy. I’m definitely not quiet (I got sshhed a lot in elementary school) and I have fun in small groups.  I’d rather go out for an hour or two rather than all night. I recharge when I’m alone.  So you can imagine, meeting at least three times a day with different groups of people was no picnic. What to do? How do introverts handle having to interact constantly? How do writers handle situations where they have to interact constantly?

  • Schedule time for yourself- Put it on your phone, have outlook pop up with a reminder to take a 5 minute break. I do this as often as I can. 3 or 4 times a day. In the morning, tea is an easy time out or remembering to take a deep breath.  Interacting at lunch is CRUCIAL so don’t go eat alone for 30 minutes every day. You are permitted to get out of the building! A walk alone around the premises, sit in your car at the parking lot, o. Too many people can and will make you irritable. You don’t want to be irritable at work.
  • Schedule one-on-ones or small group meetings- The up side of the  manufacturing meetings that have loads of people is they tend to be short. 15 minutes tops because we stand throughout. If something needs to be worked through over a long time, follow up with a smaller group or one-on-one when you can. If you have to talk with a big group, plan before hand. Know who is going to be there, what they are likely to ask from you, what resources you should bring along goes a long way. I think the same advice applies to conferences, presentations etc
  • Learn to network-  Yes, I know introverts don’t like small talk but it’s a part of life and my parents always tell me life isn’t fair. Something the part of me that likes to balance equations still can’t swallow. The first thing is to figure out what about networking don’t you like besides having to interact with many people. (the answer to that is to take breaks when you can and you don’t have to talk to everybody!) For me, it really is the not knowing that kills me. I have to remind myself that  1)these are people like me and 2) this is a stepping stone in order to have a more in-depth conversation later.So all I really need to know is what is the message I want to pass across. What do I want people to know about me/my book that will make them want to connect with me later/buy my book? 

Next week, look for A Lonely Profession, Part II where I’ll delve a little bit more into real life support versus virtual support and maybe catfish

Some related links

The Introvert’s Guide to Networking

How to Network if You Are An Introvert

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