Two weeks ago I addressed the first piece of advice to my newbie author self: Patience, Young Padawan. This week I wanted to address another important piece of advice I believe every author, especially newbies, can benefit from: saying sayonara to our self-doubt and introverted ways. Part of the time, at least. Yes, I know, this is definitely easier said than done. 🙂
Step 1: Start with Social Media
In the WikiHow article How to Make Friends As an Introvert, the first step listed is to take a hobby you enjoy and use that commonality to find and make friends. What a concept, right? Finding other authors within a community to chit-chat with? To bond with? To exchanges ideas and insights with?
Herein lies the beauty in this day and age: With the power of the internet, we have just about every possible resource for making writing friends available at the tips of our fingers. No face-to-face meetings, no physical handshakes, no anxiety over the look or glance someone just gave us. None of that. Nothing truly sucking the energy out of us. With the online platform, we can meet and chat with others from the safety of our homes. And alone. 🙂
I like to think of the online writing community as a vast pool of authors sharing laughs, ideas, insights, knowledge, and encouragements. Come on in, the water’s fantastic!
When first starting out on social media, the best advice out there is to begin slowly. Only dip your toes in at first. Get a feel for Twitter. Learn how hashtags work and which ones to follow (i.e.: #MyWANA, #amwriting, #writetip, etc.). There’s so much information floating around—all at once, most times—that we definitely don’t want to jump in headfirst. Then we’ll feel overwhelmed and drained of all our energy.
Twitter is a fantastic opener to the blogosphere. By following fellow authors and artists and writing hashtags, we’ll get links galore! Many, many authors tweet links to blogs that have sound writing advice, interesting takes on old techniques, inspiring stories of an author’s journey to publication. After a bit of exploring Twitter and all these fantastic writing links, we’ll soon have a full-fledged blogroll built up. And again, we have another amazing route to meeting and chatting with other authors. If we feel we have something to contribute to a blog post? We comment. If we simply enjoyed the post by the author? We comment and let them know.
If we take it slowly, one small step at a time, putting ourselves out there in the writing community isn’t so bad after all. We just have to remember to take a step back and breathe in order to keep from feeling overwhelmed.
Being online is the easy part. We can be alone all day long and still have meaningful conversations while meeting new people. 😉
Step 2: Local Writing Groups/Chapters
This next step is a bit more intimidating. I took this step myself last month. Um, can you say I was shaking so bad when I arrived to my first CRW meeting that it was utterly embarrassing? 😛
There’s really no easy way to take this step. It literally is a bite-the-frickin-bullet and get-it-over-with kind of thing. However, we can make this step a little easier by:
- Giving ourselves time to prepare. Look at the meeting schedule and decide on a future meeting. Usually if we give ourselves a month or two before a meeting, we’ll get a bit more comfortable with the idea of dropping into a room with many other authors we don’t know at first. We’ll be more focused and bit more prepared for the exhaustion that pounds against our skulls afterwards.
- Ripping the band-aid off. Meeting new people is like ripping a superglue band-aid off. We dread it, we have anxiety over it, we want to cry, kick and scream to not have to pull that sticky crap off. This is just too tiresome. Can’t I just stick with the online stuff? Pretty please! But here’s the thing, like a band-aid, if we simply put our big girl panties on and just do it. By the time we walk through the door, another chapter member will usually recognize we’re new, they’ll introduce themselves then they’ll tell us to “have a seat and glad you’re here!” Then, suddenly, the pain and worry about being there in the first place is … gone. And we can either contribute to conversations, or we can keep to ourselves. Whichever is fine. But at least we got ourselves there. 🙂
- Reminding ourselves that we’ll regret not going. Many writing groups and chapters hosts special guests at their meetings. Last month, I had the pleasure of meeting an editor from Kensington Publishing (and got a three-chapter request off a pitch—score!), and historical romance author Terry Brisbin. Next month, I’ll have the pleasure of meeting lawyer and literary agent, Eric Rueben. Hands down, I would’ve regretted not going to the two meetings I went to last month. I got pitch practice, the added confidence boost I needed by having an editor intrigued with my story’s premise, and fantastic ideas on how to stay motivated from an experienced author. I’d take the exhaustion from being talkative and bubbly and driving so far to the meetings over regret of not even going any and every day of the week.
Remember: Regret’s a nasty, four-horned dragon that’ll eat our writing souls if we don’t take these advantage of these small, golden opportunities.
Step 3: Stomp-Out Self-Doubt
Oh, God, they’re going to think I’m crazy. Or that I don’t know anything. Oh, it’s gonna be so obvious I’m new at this!
All of these thoughts are the work of the self-doubt. We all suffer from these thoughts. Sometimes we bow to these thoughts. And even though it’s difficult, we need to learn how to stomp these thoughts.
Whether a post-it note on your monitor, desk, or wall, a poster hanging on our office wall, a pep talk we give ourselves before getting online, writing a post, or commenting on someone else’s post, we all could use the reminder to shut down these thoughts. Some of us respond well to nice and simple notes like: “Be yourself. Nobody can ever tell you you’re doing it wrong.” And some of us may better respond to something stronger like: “Be yourself, damnit! Go with your gut! Get out there and get ‘er done! You’re frickin’ awesome!”
However we respond best should be what we seek to discover over time so that we can train our brains to not doubt ourselves as much (I’m not going to say never, because I’m almost willing to bet that even Stephen King doubts himself from time to time).
Beating the self-doubt thoughts is another fantastic positive from getting involved in the writing community. We’ll meet other authors with the same type of self-doubt-tainted thoughts. We’ll begin encouraging one another to stop thinking this way. We’ll build up each other’s confidence. We’ll build such a good rapport, that most times, we’ll become excellent CP’s or Beta Readers for one another.
And it’s an incredible feeling when a fellow author, one who’s been in your seat not too long ago, tells you, “Suck it up, buttercup! No more whining. You’re good at this! Get out there and make it happen!” 🙂
So if I leave nothing else with my newbie author self (besides patience, always have to have patience), I’d say this:
The beautiful thing about social media and the writing community is we build each other up. Because we’ve all suffered from self-doubt, from anxiety, from being overwhelmed with information and to do lists, from being new and simply not knowing any better. So when another author’s in need—newbie or not—we keep an eye out on our own and offer a helping hand. And a shoulder to cry on when times are rough. And some confetti to throw when there’s good news.
And above all else: Be true to who you are as an individual, as a writer, and as an artist. People will come to know and love the unique individual that is YOU.
I’d love to hear from you! Are you an introvert? What steps did you take to put yourself out there into the writing world? What was the hardest part of becoming involved for you? What are some other self-defeating behaviors? How did you overcome those?