I have a few confessions.
First, I almost forgot it was my blog day. I’m in the middle of editing (what else is new?). Then I was late for the gym, and then I had to get groceries. Oh, and laundry. I had to do laundry.
I know I should write these ahead of time, but that leads to another confession. I don’t always know what to say.
Which brings me to my biggest confession. I never know what to say.
Like a lot of writers, I’m an introvert. I can fake extroversion for periods of time as required, but then something else happens. I’m the person who, after the party, or the meeting, or even after lunch, will review everything I’ve said and make sure I didn’t stick my foot in my mouth.
Because I tend to stick my foot in my mouth. A lot. Horribly. And I remember every single time.
As a result, I’m the person in the group who’s listening and not saying much. I’m the person on Facebook editing every response and deleting half of them. Because, let’s be honest, does anyone really care what I have to say?
So going out into the world and promoting anything I’ve written, even for a contest as I did this month, is akin to torture for me. That’s compounded by the simple truth that I don’t have my name on anything other than my website. This was the first time the general public could read my writing, and I got to send them a link and say “Go see what I made.” What if they hated it? Worse, what if I sabotaged it by sticking my foot in my mouth?
As I do with most things, I jumped into networking with both feet and then learned by watching the pool ripple around me. I lurked, I watched, and I listened. And this is what I discovered.
Networking is like my trip to the grocery store.
- Look people in the eye, say hello, and remember your manners.
- Smile. Be nice to people.
- Don’t hog the aisle. It’s not all about you. Ceaseless “buy this,” “review this,” is annoying. Have a little fun, interact with people, or promote someone else. Share the space.
- Not everyone wants to know what’s in your cart. There’s a line between promotion and TMI.
- Ask for help. I’m short, and I’ve had to ask for help getting things off the shelf. As a new writer, some of the best help I’ve gotten is from asking questions.
- Return the favor. I can always pay a favor forward by helping someone else while I’m shopping. While I’m writing I can participate in critique groups or just listen as someone works through a plot or a pitch. Or I can repay the author who helped me by promoting new releases. I’ve had several published authors help me when they had nothing to gain. I hope I always remember that lesson.
- Be an informed shopper. Feedback and advice from other writers and editors are like those direct coupons you get in the mail. They’ve paid attention and seen something you need, or they think you might need. They’ve seen a pattern. It might not be something you’re interested in, but at least listen.