I spent the weekend teaching a workshop in San Francisco, two full days, where I ran the whole thing, did my little spiel, I spoke a lot about writing, I helped troubleshoot, I listened, I engaged, and I was present. After everyone left on Sunday, I laid down on my bed, and just stayed there for two hours staring off into space. I was drained and full at the same time.
I’m so glad that people talk so much now about what it means to be an introvert, so I probably don’t have to explain it too much, but it’s not about not liking people or being shy necessarily, it’s that feeling you have after a party: you had fun, but then you’re so thankful to be home, alone, to have time to process things. We tend to like to work alone, rather than on teams. We can create, but we don’t like to sell ourselves.
So why do I run these workshops? I love them. I mean my heart bursts with love for these other writers and their struggles and I come away feeling not-so-alone in my own writing and career struggles, I come away brimming with ideas. I hope I help them, but I also know I can only share my experience and just like all of us, they have to go back and do what they will with it. Still, despite my desire to connect with people, being introverted is something I’ve struggled with for a long time. Over the years I’ve gotten better, but I still hate things like interviews (I can’t do small talk, chit-chat or perform the role of “travel expert” as sometimes people want in a radio interview, they want sound bytes like, “travel is really just soooo transformative!” Um no sometimes it’s not.). I’m also terrible at networking, pretending to like people and a host of other things that would probably help my career. But I am getting better at running events and being a public speaker to small groups.
My tips, for those introverts out there:
Control the situation, if you can. In my workshops, I’m setting the topic. I avoid conferences and events where I don’t believe in the core message — because I know I will just disappear otherwise.
Out yourself. I was reading their writing back to them, and I felt nervous suddenly, my voice felt like it would crack. I just admitted it. I said, “I’m nervous all of sudden, reading these, even though it’s not even my writing.” It let me shake off that nervous public speaking feeling a bit, and by the end, I was at ease again.
(If you run an event) Have a well planned schedule that takes all the pressure off of you. Instead of feeling the pressure of “running the event” the schedule is running the event. It anchors you and the group.
Let go, let go, let go. However you imagined things would go, they won’t.
Stick with small groups. Break into one-on-one as much as needed, if that’s your comfort zone (like it is for me) then go with what works.
Take time to rest after it’s all over. A lot of time. Monday, I just laid in bed and watched Netflix. As much as I loved the work I did over the weekend, I needed that time to decompress.
Put yourself out there over and over again. It’s funny because the feedback I got from the workshop was very positive and someone said, “Christine you’re so much more funny than you are on your blog!” Ha. Well, I had to work hard to get to the point where I could be myself with new people right away. It used to be that people would say after knowing me for a while, “Wow, you wouldn’t guess it, but Christine is a total wise-ass.” But I actually feel like it’s a kindness and relief to be myself as quickly as possible (usually after I’ve dodged the typical nice-to-meet-you exchange with a joke, because I suck at socially obligated small talk), and it puts everyone else at ease.
By the way, if you think you have generalized anxiety or social anxiety, then you probably do and you can get meds for that. They help.
The end result? I spent the entire weekend with a bunch of great writers, being super outgoing and helpful, then I collapsed into a ball, but I didn’t feel bad about that at all. That’s just my thing. I crave other people, then I need my time. It’s just one way that people can be.