Don't Be Shy: RWA Survival Skills for the Very Very Bashful by Diane GastonIf you've met met me you probably haven't guessed I am shy. I am. My idea of a nightmare is to be placed in a social situation where I don't know anybody, especially if they all seem to know each other. Shudder!!
RWA with its 2000-or-so attendees all in one place can strike terror in the hearts of the very very bashful. I'm speaking from experience. I faced the terror, though, because I wanted so very much to be successful at romance writing. I made myself talk to people!
Here are some tips to make RWA easier.
1. Go with a friend.
When you are shy, sometimes this is the only way to do it, otherwise you just wouldn't dream of attending. Even one friend provides enough security to keep the nerves in check. This is not to say you and your friend should be joined at the hip; you should each attend the workshops that most interest you. You should each talk to other people and do some things alone-expand your horizons. Having a friend to attend those purely social events or the meals, however, does increase your enjoyment of the conference, because you don't experience the nightmare I mentioned above-a social situation where you don't know anybody.
2. Remember we're all kindred spirits.
One of the hardest things about being shy is to not know what to talk about, but at RWA we have a built-in commonality. Here are some good conversation openers: "What are you writing?" "What are you reading?" (This is a great question if you happen to sit down next to an agent and editor at lunch- we all like to talk about books) "What workshops have you attended" "Have you had any interviews?" "Do you belong to your local chapter?" and the usual "Where are you from?" If you happen to sit down next to a librarian ask library questions- "How does your library support Romance?" If its a bookseller ask bookseller questions: "What are people buying these days?" "How is your Romance section arranged?" Be prepared to keep asking questions. I've found that while people love to talk about themselves, it is very common that they will not ask much about you. Don't feel bad if this happens. Happens to me all the time.
3. Be willing to be embarrassed, to laugh at yourself.
Let people know what you are feeling when you forget their name or ask a question that turns out embarrassing, like asking some woman if this is her first conference and finding out she is Nora Roberts (she'd think that was hilarious!!). Saying, "Oh, I'm so embarrassed" is okay; everyone understands.
4. Remember it is not you.
How people treat you says more about them than about you. Some people will not be friendly. Some people will be snobs and only want to talk to their own clique. Almost nobody will seek you out for conversation - you must do the seeking. But this has nothing to do with the person you are; sometimes it is the other person's own shyness getting in the way. If one person snubs your attempts to be friendly, think, "What's her problem?" Do not conclude "People don't like me. I'm hiding in my room."
5. Practice not being shy.
Force yourself. This is a great opportunity to practice not being shy--RWA is a happy place. We're all excited about being there. Make yourself say hello to the person sitting next to you at a workshop. Strike up conversations at lunch. Ask questions in workshops. Talk to vendors at Midnight Madness. Come talk to me at the Literacy Signing (I will not pressure you to buy - I'll give you a bookmark, though. A Bookmark is my security blanket at signings). If one approach you make doesn't work, don't worry about it. You are just practicing so practice a little more and it will go better.
Believe me, you will have a wonderful conference if you give yourself permission to counteract your shyness. The plus is, the more you do this the easier it becomes and pretty soon people will be shocked when you tell them you are shy. Happens to me all the time!
What are your tips for counteracting shyness?
What situations are hardest for you because of shyness?
(this photo is from RWA 2001, New Orleans, the most fun I ever had in my life! Fom left to right: Leisa Connor (from Australia), Melissa James (also Australian, a Harlequin Romance author), Me, Karen Anders (Blaze), and Maryanne Cappelluti (the Noodler we lost to scleroderma in 2006)
There is still time to enter my contest at dianegaston.com and to read the sneak peek of Scandalizing the Ton, coming in October.