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July 31, 2012

Social Media: An Introvert’s Secret Weapon

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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?

 

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Susan Sipal

Jami, you make me so jealous! I wish I could have been at RWA and met you in person as well as all the lovely people you mention as well.

And you summarize so beautifully what I’ve grown to learn about social media. At first, I started out thinking of it as a means to reach readers. But I’ve since discovered that, as an introvert, it truly is one of the best ways to help me connect to other writers across the world and build mutually-supportive relationships. It’s amazing to me that some of my best friends now are people I’ve not actually met in real life.

So, I’ll have to be sure to go to RWA next year!!!

Julie Musil

OMG, that is so cool that you got to meet all those bloggy friends in person! I totally agree with you. At a party, in person, I’m totally shy and want to leave early (if I don’t know everyone). Being on line makes us a bit braver, I think, and yes, this community means everything.

August McLaughlin

Beautiful post, Jami. I’m sure many can relate. So glad you had an awesome time and that your workshop went well. I LOVED meeting you! Now I’m even more stoked now when I see your posts and name pop up. 😉

Meeting online pals in person really does deepen already special relationships. And I think that as writers, we know one another on a deeper level simply because we tend to express ourselves best through typing. 😉

angelaackerman

So glad your presentation went well, and I am happy you were able to connect with so many wonderful people!

I saw a great pic of you and Janice & Jenny at CowBell, and I got a huge case of the sads–how I would have loved to meet up with you guys! I just got an email from Stina telling me how awesome you and Janice were to meet in person. I’m glad she got to go, and I feel privileged because Stina lives in my city, so i get to meet with her every couple of months and we chat often in email/Facebook.

One day we will all meet up, and hash plans to rule the world!

Angela

Buffy Armstrong

I had a ridiculously good time with you guys. I feared that I’d be skulking about my hotel room the entire trip ordering room service and pay per view. Yeah, I only went back to my room to drop something off, change clothing or sleep. It was a whirlwind of activity and I enjoyed every minute of it.

Hopefully, we can all get together next year in Atlanta. RWA13 here we come!

Melinda Collins

Hi Jami!

Oh, I’m so jealous! Even more than I was when I saw a few pics of you on FB via Kristen. Jealousy aside though, I am so happy to hear that your workshop went well and that you got out there and socialized/made connections! The latter can be hard to do, and in my professional/day job life, it comes easy for me, but in my writing life, I’m not too sure. So this post was well timed as I was thinking about this very topic this afternoon in regards to my upcoming trip to CO.

I’m going to take your advice and put myself out there when I arrive in Denver. After all, there’s only going to be 5 other authors, along with Margie and her editor/daughter, Tiffany. 🙂

Again, I am so happy for you and so incredibly glad to hear that you had an awesome time! I will have to make it a point to make it to RWA next year. 😉

Tamara LeBlanc
Tamara LeBlanc

I knew from the moment I heard about it that your workshop would be a success. Congrats on doing so well! A good friend of mine attended your talk and said she learned so much.
I’ve met quite a few online friends through social media, and I consider you to be one of them. I just wish I’d had the chance to meet you and Kristen Lamb in peron. That’s my biggest regret about not attending RWA nats this year…that and not being able to personally pitch my novel.
Glad you’re experience in CA was a great one.
Have a wonderful evening,
Tamara

Stina Lindenblatt

I think one of the best parts about the conference was meeting everyone I know through social media. Unfortunately, there were so many people I didn’t connect up with, but I’m thrilled with how many people I did talk to. Next year I’m putting color in my hair like you, Jami. I was jealous at how cool you looked. Not to mention you were easy to find. 😀

If you’re not at Atlanta next year, hopefully you’ll be in San Antonio for 2014. I’ll be there.

Melinda VanLone

Jami!! You weren’t the only one who planned on skulking in the room lol. But I’m so glad that didn’t happen. I had such a good time meeting all of you, and now I have new friends! 🙂 And I heard all good things about your session! {{HUGS}}

Jenny Hansen

Had I attended the National conference, rather than just the WF chapter’s mini-conference, I’d have been all over your workshop. I’m so glad it went well. And I’ll tell you, after 15+ years of live teaching, I’d STILL get nervous to be at the RWA National Conference. I just would. 🙂

Jenny Hansen

Oh, and p.s. I totally agree with this post. 🙂

Social media has opened up my life in ways I could never have imagined. Plus, it’s made me a better writer.

Kate Wood

RWA12 was probably THE most exhilarating experience I’ve ever had – and I don’t say that lightly. The energy from so many creative people was inspiring and invigorating. It washed over me as soon as I stepped off the elevator. Everyone there was wonderful, friendly, helpful and caring. The workshops were enlightening and informative.

Aside from all of that, I got to meet in person some fabulous people that I feel privileged to have met – yourself being one of my favorites 🙂

A quite memorable experience that I will never forget, and I fully intend on repeating it next year in Atlanta!

Debbie Johansson

Hi Jami,

I’m so glad your workshop was a success and that you got to meet so many people at the conference.

Being a complete introvert, I can relate to hiding in the room. The last writing course I attended, I felt like nobody wanted to know me even though I bit the bullet and was prepared to mingle. I’ve also found lately that even when you sometimes do exchange emails, etc, people don’t always want to connect. It can be so frustrating at times and one is left to wonder why they bother, but that’s how some people are I suppose.

I have never felt that way with social media – I have met some wonderful people online. Unfortunately the vast majority seem to be on the other side of the world (mainly the U.S), which makes it a bit difficult to meet them. There is always video conferencing I suppose! 😉

Julie Glover

This is absolutely the experience I had with DFW Writers’ Conference this past May. I had attended the year prior but talked with almost no one. In 2012, however, I hob-nobbed with the best online-turned-real-life friends, such as Jenny Hansen, Donna Newton, Kristen Lamb, Piper Bayard, Jess Witkins, Nigel Blackwell, David Walker, Jillian Dodd, Kait Nolan, Tiffany White, and others I’m forgetting and will smack myself later for not including. NONE of that would have happened for this introvert but for social media. In addition to making the conference fun, I learned SO MUCH from them about writing, publishing, social media, and more. They were a treasure trove of support and wisdom. Glad you had a great RWA12 experience!

Serena
Serena

I’m actually one of the few “extroverted” writers, lol, but sometimes I can be extremely antisocial and relish locking myself into my room for almost the whole day, for many days in a row, doing not much other than writing and reading. The social media, writer blogs, forums, etc, have definitely been a great help to me. They taught me so much about character development for example. And I didn’t know that there was such a thing as a “literary agent” until someone mentioned it on a forum. Talking to people on discussion boards most certainly made me feel that there were people who “got” me. In my “real life”, I only know two serious writer friends! My Mom also keeps saying to me that “nowadays, nobody reads books, they all watch TV and movies instead!” But because of the social media like goodreads.com, I can confidently tell her that there are still A LOT of bookworms in the world here. And though it looks like no one around me except my two friends has any interest in writing, I know from the internet that TONS of people are really passionate about it. Neither am I crazy to think that writing “is my life”; such obsessiveness doesn’t get frowned upon in the writing community! Also, I think discussing things with people online is very useful for learning about different opinions. I love finding out about what other people think! And I love disagreeing with them, because if I do, then…  — Read More »

Tameri Etherton

It was amazing to meet you, Jami! You are so freaking pretty (yep, another compliment, sorry!) and so funny. I loved hanging out with you and hearing your thoughts/ideas on things. For me, it’s a balance of being too extroverted. I tend to scare the crap out of introverted folks like yourself. That’s why I like to have a few introverts around me to remind me to behave. Thank you, Debra Kristi for being my guardian angel!

I totally agree on the social media thing ~ how can a writer in this day and age not be online? It seems suicidal to me, but if it works for them, great. I love my online community. Especially when I can go to a conference and meet my friends in person. Meeting you all over the weekend felt like a reunion where we already knew one another and were just getting together after a short time apart.

Debra Kristi

Oh wow! The conference was a whirlwind of activity. I thought I’d have all this time each evening to work – NOT. I cracked open my computer once and managed one line edit before my time was up. But the time spent with all my new REAL-LIVE-FLESH-AND-BLOOD friends far outweighed the MS work waiting for me. There’s always time for that later. It was so great meeting you. You are so cute! More of an introvert than I would take you for based on your online presence. So cool! We introverts need to stick together. And I agree 100% regarding the online presence. I have learned so much since I started hitting the blogs and mingling with the Twitterverse. What a difference it has all made!

Angela Quarles

*blushing* aw, thanks Jami! It truly was wonderful getting to room with you and hang out with you, Janice and Buffy. Unlike other conferences, I felt like I was part of this one, instead of an outgoing introvert on the outside looking in, trying to fit in. It was really cool to finally meet in person folks I knew online and I know it will make the online interactions even more meaningful. I was sad Saturday night when I realized it was all ending. Though I’m still pretty drained…

Kristen Lamb
Kristen Lamb

Sorry it took a while to comment. I was SO SPOILED getting to hang out with you and the other WANAs. I always miss you guys so much :C.

E.B.Pike

Ooh, I’m so jealous that you got to meet so many of your blogging buddies at the RWA conference. I’ve only had one experience with that (and it only involved meeting two fellow bloggers at a conference), but it was definitely exciting to meet people I’d only known as gravatars. The internet is a wonderful place for writers (especially for people who are introverts in real life). 🙂

Thanks for the awesome post. You’ve always got the best advice for writers!

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