Research published authors and chances are they started off visiting conventions and making contacts. This is a magical concept called ‘networking’ and it’s something that strikes fear into my heart.
This morning I went to a workshop (day job, not writing) at Aardman Animations studios (although nothing to do with animation) and the workshop began with half an hour of ‘network’ time (that I spent trying to find myself after getting lost and looking for the main entrance). When I agreed to go to this workshop and worked at convincing my manager that it would be money well spent, I hadn’t really thought about it. But as Monday loomed, I became scared. Networking (and workshops) means talking to strangers. Help!
What really scares me about networking? That I don’t know what I’m talking about? That I’ll show myself up? I know deep down that I’ll be fine, that I do know what I’m talking about and, in this case of this morning’s workshop, if all else fails two of my colleagues are also going so I can hide behind them.
I’ve never been to a writing convention but I imagine it to be similar. Lots of people with lots of knowledge and power all talking to one another. With all that talking and socialising there is a very high probability that I would show myself up.
This fear comes down to two things;
Despite being an avid reader, writer and googler, I don’t believe that I know much about this industry of books and publishing. I should do, but I don’t. Most likely because I’m not out there, immersed in it. If I could just get to a convention, that would be one step towards cementing my knowledge and building my confidence.
I honestly don’t know how conventions work. Is it a good place for aspiring writers to go? How on earth do you approach people? More importantly, can you bring a non-writer friend? I don’t know any other fantasy writers and I sure as hell don’t want to go to one of these things by my lonesome.
Ok, so I know the answer to the first question. It’s yes. Aspiring writers should go to conventions. They may just meet other writers who can give some sound advice, or maybe new friends, or they may meet an agent or publisher who will end up signing them. Thinking of it like that makes me excited and eager to attend.
Then I think about the logistics. I read other writers’ accounts. There aren’t many conventions local to me so I would need to travel. I don’t want to go to a convention alone, I certainly am not staying in a cheap hotel by myself. Many writers talk about the after parties. Drinking and buying books sounds lush, except that I don’t drink. I definitely wouldn’t drink if I was on my own. The very idea makes me want to creep back into my shell, which brings me onto…
2. the solitary condition
Since when have writers been outgoing people? By nature, writers are people who are happy to be alone in a room with their thoughts for hours on end.
As a writer, I enjoy studying people. I love learning what makes people tick and studying their reactions to certain circumstances and situations. However I do not actually like people. Humans are not among my favourite inhabitants of this planet.
Writing is something I love. It’s something I cherish. It’s my identity. If I lose writing, then I will lose myself. Why on earth would I want to go into a large room of people, the majority of whom are already more successful than me and quite possibly a little bit tipsy, and force myself to be brave, personable and outgoing?
If life experience has taught me anything, it is that other people have a way of ripping the important things away from you.
But then, does hiding away mean that it will never happen? Am I stopping my dream from becoming real?
I don’t want to attend conventions. Although my brain makes a good argument for it being a wonderful idea, every part of my body is screaming no at me. So here’s my question. Can writers be successful and published and good, without having to attend conventions (at least before they are published, successful and signing autographs)?
To be honest, it probably doesn’t matter right now. The World Fantasy Convention (which has some big names attending) seems to be fully booked already, not to mention I should probably wait until I have at least one novel ready for submission. So maybe all of this can be preparation for conventions next year. Yes, if I start now, maybe I’ll feel brave enough to attend a convention in 2014. Or maybe, if I’m feeling very brave, Bristolcon in October.