Surviving a Writer's Conference as an Introvert
Recently I attended a week-long writer’s conference. It was held at the university where I got my bachelor’s degree. I would be staying on campus in the dorms and totally immersed in the experience. I was so excited but I was nervous as well. I’m an introvert by nature and I expected this event to take me well beyond the limits of my comfort zone.
I was right. The very first day of our workshop we did an icebreaker activity. I groaned inwardly. I hate those things, as I imagine everyone does. But to my surprise I met a woman who would become a good friend, and through her I met another good friend. I was lucky to meet these people, who were very outgoing people and exuberant participants in the conference, because they became my group members and my critique partners as well as my friends. They challenged me to think in new ways and to come out of my shell.
One thing I did that turned out to be a lifesaver was to monitor my energy levels carefully throughout each day. If I felt my energy was too low, I didn’t go to the evening reading. I had a hard time with this initially, because I felt like I’d paid for the whole experience and I should get my money’s worth. But ultimately, I decided that my mental and physical health were more important. So if I felt like I could manage more “peopling,” I’d go across the hall to my friend’s room and work on our homework or just talk. But if I felt like I was tapped out, I’d stay in my room and work or just rest.
I think one of the reasons this conference was so successful for me was because I stayed at the venue where it was held. I could interact with my fellow attendees whenever I wanted to and going to and from workshops or other activities was easy. If I needed to rest for a few moments, I could just take a five-minute walk back to my room. If I’d stayed at a nearby hotel, this would have been difficult.
I also can’t say enough good things about my workshop facilitator/teacher. He was approachable, he was knowledgeable, and he was inspiring. I was fortunate enough
to get a one-on-one manuscript consultation with him. I was so nervous! He’s a published author who gets paid to come and teach people about writing and here he is laying my story open in front of me. I was worried he was going to point out all of its flaws. I wasn’t sure what I was worried about. What actually happened was that he caught some of the things I wasn’t sure about in the novel and gave me solutions for them. He pointed out its flaws but in a kind way that gently led me to see where I could change things – that got me excited to get back in there and polish (or “distress”) my novel. And he pointed out some places where I was going right, too.
I learned a ton, was greatly inspired, and made new friends. All in all, a pretty successful conference for an introvert.