Oh, we’re in a pub today are we? OK. I feel overdressed in my polished shoes and good jacket.
Everyone seems to be able to speak publicly – with just that delicate touch of humour. Colourful anecdotes about pets and embarrassing moments (that only serve to make them look even more charming). Harmless gossip that shows you as understanding and likeable. Struggles with a project that highlight your ability to get the job done despite all obstacles
People seem to think that if you’re a writer, you can also talk. I can’t.
I can’t think of any words with more than one syllable. I can’t even think of the right word. Or tense. Or language sometimes.
So we mill about with our horrible hot drinks.
Everyone’s loud and confident. And when I look around the room, everyone’s deep in conversation in pairs or small groups. There’s loud laughter (I can’t conjure that no matter what I say, I’m just not funny.) I imagine people are making contacts and being interested in what other people do.
“I’m Rebecca. I’m a writer.”
People think of J.K. Rowling.
“A freelance copywriter.”
Their face glazes over.
I explain. Everything you read – every box of cereal, website, brochure and press release – has been written by someone. That’s what I do.
I hear about one woman’s growing nature foods business, someone else’s independent estate agency and some man’s business services venture. I wondered whether he means serving businessmen after a while as I couldn’t make out what he did.
I fail at networking. I’m reclusive, introverted and cannot perform. I sound dull. My sense of failure translates as a monotone in my voice which just turns people off. I can’t talk. I don’t want to talk.
This problem has come up repeatedly on writers’ forums: is there a place for the quiet, shy, thoughtful introvert? My conclusion is: no.
We need to be able to promote ourselves – online and in person. It’s not natural. Man has lived a quiet life for many thousands of year. In small, quiet units, wandering about for food, making fires and shelter.
Making noise seems to signal the opposite of survival for most of our existence: you don’t want the enemy/predators to know you’re there.
But now, we all have to sell ourselves everywhere to everyone all the time (freelancers at least).
I know this is a business survival technique but it feels very unnatural to me. I’m a writer. I sit at my desk. I’m alone. I think. I write. I think some more. I write some more…
Somehow I have to grow another facet to my personality. The tweeter. The forum poster. The talker. The self-promoter.
And then I’m aware that my resistance is because I loathe that sort of person.
Maybe that could be my introductory remark at the next networking event. My humorous quip.
“You know, being a boasting loudmouth doesn’t come easily to me; I’ve had to work at it. And I’ve had to work twice as hard as you lot because I’m actually deep and studious. So standing here and telling you how wonderful I am is a real challenge. I’ve had to overcome my disdain for blustering, showy types and become one myself…”
Yes… I feel that would alienate more potential clients than my grim look and dull voice.
I just feel like a child again being taken off to my awful uncle’s house: “Do I have to go?”
“Yes, he’s going to leave us his estate; you have to go. And be nice. Smile for God’s sake…”
OK. But only if I really have to.