An Introvert’s Guide to Surviving a Writers’ Conference
by Jeanette Hanscome
“I don’t think I have the right personality for the writing world,” I told my friend. “I’m not bold enough.”
I’d just watched one of my fellow conferees hop up from her chair and cross the dining hall to ask a well-known author to endorse her novel. It was all I could do to request an editor appointment without shaking and answer “What kind of writing do you do” without tripping over my own words.
My friend leaned across the table, “Every year, I have a moment when I wonder the same thing. I think a lot of us do. Writers tend to be shy, yet we come to these conferences and are forced to talk to editors and do all kinds of things that we normally wouldn’t.”
I tried to hide my shock. My friend was a member of the faculty, a pillar of the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, and here she was admitting to being just like me—insecure and shy. Knowing I wasn’t alone erased the lie that I had to become like that woman in the dining hall in order to make it as a writer.
Since then I’ve discovered that even the writers who can cross the room to ask, “Will you endorse my novel?” are doing it scared to death. I’ve lost track of how many author friends—successful authors whose names you would recognize—have told me, “I’m an introvert.”
Just today, I read an article titled, “23 Signs You’re Secretly an Introvert.” Number 22 was “You’re a writer.”
So, if one of your pre-conference fears is, “I’m an introvert,” know you will be in good company at Mount Hermon. It will also help you to apply these survival tips:
- Plan to step out of your comfort zone. If we avoid everything that makes us uncomfortable (for example, having a conversation), we won’t get very far in life let alone the publishing industry. Each day, plan to do at least one thing that requires stretching yourself, such as requesting an appointment with an editor or visiting the Critique Team. If it helps, ask a friend to be your accountability partner. Definitely have friends pray for you. Each one will get a little easier, I promise.
- See yourself as brave. I used to think I was weak because I felt scared so much of the time, until I discovered that others thought I had guts because I went to writers’ conference and submitted my work for publication. It took a while for me to recognize that seeing myself as weak compounded the challenges of being an introvert by messing with my confidence. Your willingness to attend a major writers conference and put yourself out there is a big deal. In moments of fear, remind yourself how strong you are just for signing up.
- Take breaks. You probably don’t need to be told that large crowds and endless conversation are exhausting for an introvert and can cause a lot of anxiety. Give yourself permission to go to your room for a while in the afternoon, skip a workshop, hang out in the bookstore, or go to bed early. Every session is recorded.
- Reach out to other introverts. If you see someone who always seems to be sitting alone, say hello. Sit together during general sessions. Suggest having coffee together. You might discover that you have a lot more in common than your personality type.
- Know that it is okay to be quiet. One nice thing about being surrounded by other introverts is we don’t think quiet people are anti-social and weird. I bet you’ve been described as a “gentle spirit” or “deep thinker” in addition to “quiet,” and those are pretty high compliments. In moments when you catch yourself thinking, I don’t have the right personality for this, remember, if introverted is how God wired you and he gave you the passion to write, you have the right personality for this. You just need to push through a few fears.
- Plan for some post-conference downtime. A five-day conference will take a lot out of anyone, but for those of us who are introverts, coming down from the mountaintop can take days. Be prepared to feel tired and in need of space. If it’s possible to take a day off after the conference or go to work late, do it. If not, at least plan for quiet evenings at home between Tuesday and Easter Weekend. Give yourself time to reflect on all that God did at Mount Hermon, and how He used the conference to grow your confidence.
Meet other introvert writers. Register today for Mount Hermon Writers Conference.
Jeanette Hanscome is an author, speaker, freelance editor, and busy single mom. Her book Suddenly Single Mom: 52 Messages of Hope, Grace, and Promise was published by Worthy Inspired in March 2016. She has written four other books, hundreds of articles, devotions, and stories, and contributed to Kathy Ide’s Fiction Lover’s Devotionals 21 Days of Grace and 21 Days of Love, as well as Ellie Claire’s Just Breathe. In 2012, she coauthored Running with Roselle with blind 9/11 survivor Michael Hingson.
Though she has been visually impaired since birth, Jeanette refuses to allow her limitations to hold her back from doing the things she loves. When she isn’t writing, Jeanette enjoys teaching writing workshops, speaking, and mentoring writers. She pours her leftover energy into singing, knitting, and crocheting, and dabbling in new areas of creativity. Jeanette is the mother of two wonderful sons—one young adult and one teenager.
Jeanette is presenting “When Life Gets in the Way of Your Writing” at this year’s Writers Conference.