Mingling, or Thinking?

“Quiet people have the loudest minds.” Stephen Hawking

There was a young woman at the writing conference I attended recently, and all I could do was stare at her with admiration (and yes, a touch of envy).

You’ve probably come across people like her — why, you might even be one yourself!

She didn’t seem to know a stranger.

Rising from her seat at every break, she went from attendee to attendee, introducing herself, shaking hands, exchanging business cards and contact information. And she seemed happy to be doing it!

That got me thinking about why I was sitting in my chair, surrounded by writers who were sitting in their chairs, fearful of interacting.

At first, I blamed it on my being an introvert, more comfortable on the fringes of a group, hiding from the spotlight.

But my third grade teacher, presented with my parents’ fears over my shyness, assured them, “Debbie talks when she has something to say.”

And I do.

As a journalist, I regularly spoke with attorneys in the courtroom, candidates for public office, business executives, civic leaders. I figured they put pants on the same way I did — one leg at a time.

And when I worked in sales, I regularly spoke with doctors, pharmacists, business owners, reps for other companies.

None of that terrified me.

But a room full of writers? Yep, shaking-in-my-boots scared.

And why?

I think it’s because I feel inferior. A charlatan. Despite the fact that I’ve written almost ever since I could hold a pencil, I don’t see myself as a “WRITER.”

Writers are these amazing souls who provide enchanting worlds for readers to live in for a while. They create characters so mesmerizing, dialog so sparkling, stories so riveting, that we ache when we finish their books.

I’m not sure I’m good enough to do that. Actually, I’m not sure any of us at that conference is good enough to do that!

I like to think this young woman was counteracting her nervousness by finding solace in the presence of others, while I prefer to withdraw into my own thoughts and company.

Just a difference in personality, really.

And there’s nothing inherently wrong in playing to one’s strong suit, is there?

How about you? Do you work a crowd, or hang back a little?

(Note: I’ll have one more post about the writing conference before resuming “regular programming”!)

25 thoughts on “Mingling, or Thinking?

  1. I totally get what you’re saying! I feel like you’ve described me to a tee! I envy the ease in which I see others interact…and then again, it might not be easy for them but they force themselves to do so.

    • I’m glad I’m not the only one, Suzi! I think spending an entire day with a large group of people is draining for introverts. We need to regroup whenever we can. To pull back, process, and analyze. There was so much information passed out that I could barely take it all in (and no way did I want to squander that opportunity, ha!)

  2. Oh I absolutely hang back. There is nothing more anxiety causing for me than a room full of people – unless I’m the speaker. But to mingle and small talk? No. But I’ve gotten over feeling like I have to do so – I’m content to observe. And I love what your 3rd grade teacher said. Good for her!

    • Thanks, Barb! She was a very wise woman, my teacher — I’m blessed I had her for two grades. It’s not so bad to be an observer, is it? I mean, how else can a writer capture dialog and description, if we can’t sit on the sidelines and take notes?!

  3. I don’t have a clue what the other woman’s motivation might have been, but I certainly suspect self-promotion. I’m fully aware of how many people are out there telling every creative sort in the world that the one thing they must do is “get themselves out there.” Network, by gosh!

    There’s just one thing. Not everyone enjoys having someone in their face day in and day out, saying, “Here I am! Look at me! Follow me! Read me! Like me!” Perhaps I sound a bit curmudgeonly here, but I’ve sometimes found myself no longer following blogs that turn into nothing but advertisements for someone’s new book. Is publicizing our work valid? Absolutely. But beating someone over the head with it? Not so much.

    When you were a journalist, you were asking questions because you were interested in the other person’s response. Too many people are interested only in what we think of them, and whether we’re going to buy what they’re peddling. (Hmmmm….. why am I suddenly thinking of Brian Williams?)

    • Linda, no, you’re not a curmudgeon! Yours is definitely the voice of reason. I think, because of the proliferation of self-published books, writers are forced to promote, or their titles will languish in obscurity. How sad!

      But equally sad is the writer who buys into the “get yourself out there” jargon. I’ve quit following people on Twitter and yes, on blogs, when all they do is demand I buy their book, follow them on Facebook, write a review on Goodreads, etc. I love making meaningful connections through social media, but I don’t want to be SOLD! Gone are the days when publishing houses took care of that — and I don’t think they were anywhere near as annoying, ha!

  4. I bet you most everyone there felt that way. And the other woman? Maybe she was working the room repeating: fake it until you make it. 🙂 I would have been there shaking in my boots next to you. Most writers are on the introvert spectrum for a reason — thoughts need time to hatch and bake. And then, hand over the pen and an entire ream of paper!

    • “Thoughts need time to hatch and bake.” I love that statement, and I’m going to remember it! You’re 100% right, of course. Rare is the person who’s the Life of the Party who can withdraw into the solitude that honing a craft requires. We all have our strengths — and weaknesses. Glad to hear I’m not the only one in awe of talent, wherever it turns up!

  5. “I like to think this young woman was counteracting her nervousness by finding solace in the presence of others, while I prefer to withdraw into my own thoughts and company.”

    I think you hit the nail on the head, Debbie! Some people actually become more chatty in a large crowd when nervous. So perhaps she was overcompensating for feeling insecure.

    I basically consider myself an introvert. And even though I was a professional actor for many years, you’d be very surprised by how many are actually very quiet and reserved offstage. I’m not one for overly self-promoting myself. Yes, I publicize various things on my blog, like my photography prints, but I don’t feel comfortable shoving it down people’s throats. I have one blogging friend who is constantly promoting herself on her blog and I’ve noticed that she’s losing readers because it’s just too much. A blog is a great way to highlight your work, but when it ONLY becomes that, I think people start to sense it.

    Great topic, my friend!

    • Actually, having known people who acted (at least, in the community theater realm), I realize many tend to be introverts, Ron. They, too, need time away from the crowds to perfect their lines, become the character they’re portraying, and such.

      If I ever get to the point of shouting self-promotion, I trust all my friends will hit me over the head with a frying skillet! Better that, than have readers drop off and go elsewhere. I am grateful for everyone who visits my blog home and leaves a comment (or two or three!). That’s one of the things I really appreciate about blogging, as opposed to other forms of social media — the support, encouragement, and appreciation. I don’t ever intend to get to the point where I abuse their trust!

      Thanks for your thoughts, my dear, and have a fabulous rest-of-the-week!

    • Thanks, Professor! I’d have warmed up, had this been one of those multi-day conferences, rather than a one-day workshop. As it was, there was so much going on — so much to learn and take in — that I left feeling a bit exhausted mentally. That’s not a bad thing; it’s just that I wanted time alone to process it all. Perhaps I need to attend a conference of doctors, where I wouldn’t feel like I had to measure up, ha!

  6. Of course she was counteracting, but remember neither of your choices were wrong. Maybe you feel more comfortable one on one, Debbie. You can get your name across without being the spectacle in the room. (I don’t mean that as harshly as it sounds.) I guarantee you she has a wave of self doubt about her and you’d pick up on it after a few short minutes…equalizing your playing field or at the very least relaxing any concerns. Yeah, she may run into a problem when everyone she talks to writes her off as someone who doesn’t need them or their help. I’ve found that to be the case.

    Be you, introverted and all. Those silent ones are the game changers, my dear. ♡

    • Audrey, do you have kids? I only ask because I believe you’d make a wonderful, understanding mom! My own mom (herself an introvert) always seemed ashamed that I was. I guess our western world tends to appreciate and reward extroverts more. School, certainly, favors the outgoing children, and business does, as well.

      I suspect you’re entirely right in saying this woman probably was schmoozing to waylay her own fears and insecurities. Of course, some of these people knew one another because of previous encounters, so I was kind of odd man out. That’s okay. I still took away what I needed and am glad for the experience.

      Game changers? *blushes, hangs head*

      • Hey, I do. Two children. A girl 10 and a boy 12. (I never speak of them on my blog, however. Mostly because I’ve had some trouble with creepers, so I took them off the table to keep them safe. And Duke protects me. He’s good at keeping an eye out with his katana.) I hope I’m a great mom. They’re great kids. Having a mom as a teacher, women’s bible study leader and woman who wants to save the world can be daunting. But I do try to let them flurish as the amazing people that they are.

        I’m really glad you see her and yourself, as I do. You’re wonderful. Hugs.

        • I’m glad to know this about you, my new friend. I only have one, Domer, and I, too, am very protective of him and his privacy. If he wants to do the Facebook thing, that’s his choice, but not me, ha!
          And you’re so right — Duke and his katana are an awesome combination; we girls can’t have too many real heroes, can we?!?
          Hugs back at you, Audrey — have a brilliant weekend!

  7. Debbie, I’m with Linda–I think this was definitely strategic networking. And really, what better way to get your name out there as an aspiring writer than at a writer’s convention! I have to admit that I’m more of a “work the room kind of person.” Not because there’s a reason for me to network, but because I love to socialize. Nevertheless, I can understand how this can be daunting for some. Regarding your insecurities as a writer, allow me to say I think you have it all wrong. You are a fine writer, my friend! I love how it’s easy to relate to your posts and that you’re so adept in getting your message across. Hugs! 🙂

    • Well, I’m just going to bask in your kind words, Bella! I admire you folks who can work a room. I do. And honestly, sometimes I’ve done it, too (only not when it’s a room full of writers, ha!). I think it’s just really hard to be a thinking, contemplative, writing sort of person one minute, and a social butterfly, marketing, promoting kind of writer the next. The publishing industry has forced this on us (and I have to wonder how many Hemingways, Dickens, Thoreaus, etc. ever would have been published, were they living under these conditions!!)

  8. I have gotten a lot better in a crowd. I find that the more I start to talk the calmer and more confident I get. That’s very neat that you were at an event with other writers. I don’t think you have anything to fear as you are a great writer from what I see in your posts here! I think it’s when we doubt ourselves that we start to become introverts sometimes in situations… so I hope you show everyone your fabulous self! xx

    • Oh my golly, Christy, what lovely things to say! Thank you, they’re much appreciated! I sense the ring of truth here — sometimes interacting can calm our jitters, especially when we find out others are just as nervous as we are. I heartily recommend attending a writer’s conference — there’s so much advice you can pick up, and the energy of being around others who share your passion is beyond amazing!

    • I’d have been glad to have a friendly face seated next to me, Janna! Working the crowd just wasn’t on my agenda. I had too much learning I wanted to soak up (and every chance I got, I was asking questions of the folks in charge — a hold over from my journalist days, I think!)

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