Last week, I attended the Romance Writers of America (RWA) Annual Conference in Anaheim, California. My workshop was successful (*whew*), I had a fantastic experience, and I’m grateful to my family for pushing me through the pre-conference panic attack so I didn’t just hide under the bed.
I know I’m not the only person to freak out at the thought of having to be “on” and meeting a bunch of strangers. Those fears come with the territory of being an introvert, and many writers are introverts.
Up until a week before the conference, I thought I would order room service for the meals before the conference started (I arrived a day early to prepare for my workshop). Eating alone triggers flashbacks to junior high school, and I had no desire to relive that experience. *shudder*
Then the #RWA12 hashtag on Twitter caught my attention, and I started noting the people who were going to the conference. People who were also arriving early. People I “knew” from social media.
I reached out to some of those I knew from Twitter, WANATribe, and blogging, and soon, I had every pre-conference meal booked and several get-togethers planned for during the conference. So I went from being tempted to hide out in my room for twenty-four hours to having the opportunity to meet—in person—some amazing people.
Kristen Lamb and the WANAites (Jenny Hansen, August McLaughlin, Tameri Etherton, Natalie C. Markey, Kate Wood, Melinda VanLone, Debra Kristi, and probably others I’m forgetting) were just as awesome in person as they are online (even though their compliments mortified me to no end—spotlights and introverts don’t mix *smile*). Kat Latham and Stina Lindenblatt were both lovely to hang out with and I wish I’d had more time with each of them.
Plus, I got to reconnect with some of my friends from RWA10, like Roni Loren and Jamie Wesley. If you heard the loud “whoo” from the back corner when they listed Jamie’s name among the Golden Heart Finalists at the Award Ceremony, that was me.
Most importantly, I met some of my dearest online friends and turned them into some of my dearest friends. Period. My favorite blogger, Janice Hardy, my Twitter buddy, Buffy Armstrong, and my beta buddy extraordinaire (and RWA roomie), Angela Quarles, all became fast friends. We’re counting the days until we see each other again.
And none of that awesomeness would have happened without social media. I’ve written before about how even introverts can succeed on Twitter. If we find a blogger we like, we can follow them on Twitter, we can retweet their links, and we can start conversations with them about what we liked about their latest post.
Sure, that approach takes a bit of “putting ourselves out there,” but it takes a lot less than doing a similar thing in person. The worst that can happen is they’ll ignore us. (And speaking as someone who has built up many followers over the years, more often than not, they probably just missed your tweet in the chaos of Twitter and didn’t mean to ignore you. Believe me. I hate the thought of accidentally missing someone’s tweet, but I know I’ve been guilty of it. *sigh* Sorry!)
Even if we’re not on Twitter, we can start building relationships with people by commenting on blogs. When we see the same name and avatar repeatedly—especially if we interact with them—we start feeling like we know them. That’s where friendships begin.
I’ve often wondered how writers who aren’t online manage. How do they learn about craft, the publishing industry, or agents and query letters if they’re not visiting blogs? We hear the stories agents tell—how the majority of queries break the big rules, like a two-thousand-word long query letter with attachments—and shake our heads. How could those writers not know the “rules”? It’s because they’re not online.
But even those who are online to read industry blogs, research agents, and learn the craft are missing something if they aren’t plugged in to the writing community. The community lets us know about new resources for learning, new agents to submit to, and new options for getting our stories into the hands of readers.
The community also—and to me, most importantly—gives us connections. We find other writers who understand our brand of insanity and neuroses. We find beta readers and critique partners. And we find friends.
Social media is more than just a time suck. Granted, it does take time. And we can certainly let it become a time suck. But that’s the fault of our time management, not social media itself.
In other words, I think the benefits of social media are broader than we realize. As long as we’re careful, the pros outweigh the cons. If we properly manage our time, we don’t have to deal with the cons at all.
And for introverts, social media can be an easy (or at least, easier) way to connect with others in the writing community. Being introverted doesn’t have to hold us back in the online world. The majority of writers are introverts, so we understand and sympathize.
And if we build up those connections online, being introverted doesn’t have to hold us back in the real world either. We can use our connections to keep from feeling alone and to make real friends who “get” us. And that’s a great gift.
Have you met online writing friends in real life? How did the meeting go? What’s the hardest part about reaching out to others? Do you have any tips for making social media work for introverts? If you were at RWA12, how was your experience?