I’m naturally shy. Not many people know (or believe) that, but it’s true. I’ve always known it, so in college I decided to join a sorority to help me overcome my shyness. It didn’t work, but I did learn how to work around it. At that time I needed people skills to get to know women and sell them on my sorority in a matter of hours. I never imagined that those recruitment tools were actually life skills that would help me in my writing career.
What does it look like, being shy yet working around it? Here’s an example:
Five years ago I attended my first major writers conference. More than 200 people attended, including dozens of agents and editors. I had never been to that conference, around that many writing professionals, or at that particular campus, yet people kept asking me where to find this room or how to sign up for that function. I didn’t necessarily know all of the answers, but before I arrived I made sure I knew where to find answers, so I pointed everyone in the right direction. I had studied all of the information and guidelines before arriving so I would be comfortable and confident in what I needed to do. Others read that confidence on me and turned to me for help. Most people I spoke with were shocked to find out I wasn’t on staff (even more surprised when I told them I was a first-time attendee). It wasn’t necessarily comfortable or easy for me to interact with and help all of these strangers, but I did it. You can too.
The trick is to be prepared. Don’t simply show up at an event. Do your homework. Know who will be there and what they will be doing. Inform yourself. When you can walk right to the registration desk as if you’ve done it 100 times, people will notice your confident stride.
I regularly hear stories from people who aren’t comfortable with crowds, or are “too introverted” to either attend a conference or actively participate once they arrive. As someone who cried in her room her first semester in college, I’m here to tell you that you can do it. Not only can you make it to that event, you can go with confidence. That doesn’t mean it will be easy or comfortable, but no one else needs to know. Suck it up, hold your head high, and fake it until it does become easy and comfortable.
You’ve got this.