It’s that time again! Time for the annual pilgrimage to Romance Writers of America. I’m really excited because this year’s conference is practically in my backyard.
I love going to the conference. I’m recharged by hanging with my fellow author peeps, talking conflict and black moments, word count and plotting. I get jazzed just thinking about it. But. I also get overwhelmed, because you see, my name is Rebecca and I am an introvert.
My first time at an RWA conference (which was also in Orlando, by the way), I was a wallflower. I kept to myself, afraid to talk to anyone for fear they would recognize me for the wet-behind-the-ears newbie I was who had no idea what she was doing. I still got a lot out of the conference, but I think I also hurt myself in the long run.
You never know who you’re going to meet when you network. That person could be your next agent, editor, or writing buddy. So the next year, I pushed myself, sat next to people at the bar, or chatted them up in the conference rooms. Invited folks who were looking for a seat at the luncheons to sit next to me. Did I find my agent or editor? Well, no. But, I met some pretty awesome people.
Even so, I still suffered from a severe case of Extrovert Impersonation Syndrome or EIS—that dreaded condition that often afflicts introverts who push their limits in a heroic attempt to break out of their shell. Symptoms include intense fatigue, cognitive meltdown, inability to string three or more words together in a coherent sentence, and, in extreme cases, an urge to shelter in their hotel room until the conference is over and the hoards have gone home.
The good news is, this affliction is preventable. Here are a few of my survival tips.
- Pace yourself. You don’t have to go to every workshop, luncheon, party, networking reception, or book signing on the RWA schedule. With the option of purchasing workshop recordings, you can pick and choose. And yes, the luncheons are wonderful, but the sheer numbers of people and the noise level can overwhelm even those on the more extroverted end of the introvert spectrum.
- Take time outs. This is especially important. If there’s a session you’re interested in, but it’s being recorded, head up to your room for a little peace and quiet (but don’t forget to rejoin the activities). Or sit by the pool for a bit. Better yet, take a walk. The activity clears your head, the fresh air revives your brain, and, if you’re like me, it defrosts my over-air-conditioned frozen extremities.
- Volunteer. This sounds counterintuitive, but, it’s a great way to put yourself out there for a defined period of time, under controlled circumstances, while not overtaxing your closet introvert. If you volunteer, you’re given a task for that set period of time, you can chat with other volunteers, but there’s no pressure, because you’re all busy. When the task is complete, you’ve helped out fellow authors, you’ve met a few folks, and you’re done. Now go take a break and reward yourself for your good deed.
- Set realistic goals. Determine what this year’s conference goals are. Is it to improve your craft? Then attend the craft sessions, and maybe you don’t need the marketing sessions yet. Is it to snag your dream agent? Then you can’t hide out in your room. You’ve got to mingle, or sign up for pitch appointments. Or, is it simply to rejuvenate the muse, recharge your writing batteries, and bask in the supportive network that is RWA? When you know what your goals are, you can plan your conference time to achieve those goals, while also avoiding conference burnout.
- Don’t beat yourself up. Let’s say you’ve set goals for yourself, you’ve selected the workshops and RWA opportunities to help you achieve those goals, but by the end of day one, you’ve already missed that all-important workshop on GMC, and your feet feel like you’ve been walking on hot coals, so the chapter party you’d planned to go to is a no-go, and as if that wasn’t bad enough, you’ve lost your voice from all the fabulous and witty small talk you’ve made all day. Whew! Take my advice, order room service, soak in a hot bath, and curl up in bed with one of the many free books you picked up that day. Because, to quote Scarlett O’Hara, “After all, tomorrow is another day.”
What survival tips work for you?