Socializing for introverts

I am an introvert, as many writers tend to be (not all, it's true), though I'm pretty good at putting on the public face and socializing. I'm not shy, I don't get tongue-tied (much), and I can meet and greet like a professional. Not sure where I acquired these abilities, though I think it comes from being married to an extrovert and watching him in action. It's also a function of age — realizing that it doesn't matter what someone thinks, I'm me and that's that. πŸ™‚

But, I always DREAD the start of these socializing events. Today is the start of a busy two days for me. The Heart of Dixie Readers' Luncheon is tomorrow. Today, there are preparations to make — bags to be stuffed, dinners to attend, and a party for a friend who sold to Mills & Boon a couple of weeks ago.

And yet, I always always dread it, even when I want to see everyone and have fun. (I feel this way about conference too, even when this year I have a lot to look forward to.) I hate the preparation — the thinking, planning, packing (it's one overnight in a hotel 15 miles from home and yet I stress), the schlepping, getting situated, etc. I know I'll have fun when it starts, but it's the getting to the start I hate.

Some people are naturals at this kind of thing. I am not. At conference last year in Dallas, I got so overwhelmed at one point I went back to the room and was grateful my wonderful roomies were still out. I sat, drinking wine by myself (uh-oh, look out Hemingway), and tapped out the beginning of a new story on my AlphaSmart. I seriously needed that decompression time. If I could afford it, I'd spend the entire conference in a room to myself. But at $225 a night, that ain't happening. πŸ™‚

OTOH, like I say, once I get there this afternoon and start chatting and celebrating and talking writing with people who GET IT because they are writers too, I'll be as happy as a pig in mud. If I could just figure out how to stop the stressing stuff beforehand, I'd be all set.

Are you an introvert or an extrovert? Have trouble with socializing? Any tricks you use to prepare yourself? I don't have any, but like I say, once I get started, I'm fine. It's the getting there and getting into that frame of mind — and for longer events, like Nationals, some alone time.

What’s it all mean?

This has been one heck of a week, y'all. I'm still getting used to the changes. I have not sold a book, but my professional life changed in the space of one phone call. And then another call came that iced the cake even more. There have been emails, phone calls, old friends coming out of the woodwork. Mostly, it's been great.

It's also been somewhat distracting. I kind of got a glimmer of what it's like for authors who keep checking their Amazon numbers or need to stop writing and take care of business tasks that won't wait. You can get caught up following a task until you realize an hour has passed since you meant to stop and go do something else like, say, eat. πŸ™‚

And then there's been the tiniest bit of, well, negativity floating my way. Most people are happy for me. A couple are not. It happens, and I understand that.

But I also feel somewhat blown away by it, by the idea that anyone would think I won the Harlequin contest or finaled in the Golden Heart due to anything other than hard work and a refusal to give up. I had this conversation once with a writer who got a fabulous book deal and then had people talking about how her “connections” are what did it for her. Her supposed connections weren't connections. She wasn't the First Dog or anything. (Millie the Spaniel wrote a book with Barbara Bush, you may remember…)

I certainly didn't get to this point alone. I've been lucky enough to have a husband who believes in me, a critique partner who tells me the truth, and an entire organization telling me to climb back on the horse when I fell off. Most of my writing friends know the vagaries of this business from personal experience, but there are always those people who think there's a secret handshake, a password into the temple of publishing.

There isn't, folks. You write the best damn book you can, realize when it may not be good enough, and then write another one. And you always, always act like a professional. That's the only secret I know.

Do you know any secrets to this biz? Why do you think a sensible person typically knows he can't play Mozart overnight but expects to be able to write an amazing bestseller on the first try?

P.S. Party over at the Writing Playground today! It's a Friday celebration by my friends at the Playground, so come on over and have a good time!

The Good, the not so good, and the downright irritating

Not, however, in that order. πŸ™‚ Where would the drama be in that?

The not so good: got contest scores back this week that were polar opposites to say the least. One judge hated me, one loved me, and if I'd only had 5 more points difference, my entry would have went for a rejudge. Ah well.

The downright irritating: I redesigned my website. It's lovely, I think. But you're going to have to trust me on that because my webhost is arguing with my OS. The files are there, I can see them, but they are in a subdirectory instead of a main directory and I therefore have NO index file. No index file means no webpage, basically. I don't want to move my webhosting. It's a pain. And I don't want to reload the old pages (they still exist on my Windows notebook, so all is not lost). I want my new pages to work! Waaaahhh!

The good: I got a call last night that my entry won the 2007 Gotcha Contest in the Single Title Romantic Suspense category! Yay!!! News like that makes the pain of struggling through revisions disappear for a while. It's validation, for now. Tomorrow, the same book could get shot down again. But I'm going to enjoy this little high while it lasts. πŸ™‚

Update: The new website is up here. There are a couple of issues I haven't fixed yet, but I'm working on it. Finally, however, it can be viewed. No idea what it looks like in Internet Explorer, so if it looks funny, let me know. πŸ™‚

Creative spaces

Well, I finally got off my posterior and whipped my office into shape. It still needs some things, like a new filing cabinet, and I need to go through some stuff, but it's once again a welcoming space in which to sit at my desk and work. For months, I've been on the couch with my MacBook, while in my office languished a perfectly good iMac (with a much larger screen, duh).

We hung curtains, and swapped out an antique daybed for a couple of chairs. The daybed is gorgeous, but it's going to require a special mattress and I just haven't gotten around to locating one yet (3/4 size, in fact). My idea was to set it up with lots of pillows and make it a cozy place to sit and read (or nap). Maybe later. For now, it's nice to have chairs with a good lamp and a couple of pillows. If hubby wants to play guitar while I write, he can. If I want to read while he surfs, I can. Not that we don't have other rooms in the house, but it's nice to be together. πŸ™‚

Is a welcoming creative space necessary? Probably not. In On Writing, Stephen King tells of buying a huge oak desk that dominated his office. Ultimately, he realized the desk was merely an extension of ego and served no purpose. So he downsized and made his space into something where his family could come and be with him. And then, when he was nearly killed by a distracted driver, he once again found himself writing in a small space reminiscent of the laundry room he'd written in before he made a lot of money.

So no, probably all you need to write is a private space somewhere and an active imagination. I kid myself with my desire for order and pretty curtains, but hey, it works for me and makes me feel professional. I've written at Starbucks, where all you need is a small table and an iPod, and I've written in bed. But I really like sitting at my desk. Thankfully, I can do that again without the clutter and odd desk placement to distract me (yes, this is the third position my desk has been in, the logical one from the start, but one I stubbornly resisted — and it's perfect).

(For a fun look at writer spaces, click here. Scroll down and click on the pics.)

What's your creative space like? Do you like order, or does it matter?

Overwhelm & the Business

It sneaks up on you at the least expected times. You're working on revisions, or maybe writing something fresh, and then all of a sudden you get this crushing feeling. In other words, you get overwhelmed by the thought of all you have yet to do. As I revise, every little choice I make — whether to cut a scene or add a scene — has a ripple effect down the line. And that ripple effect is starting to scare me. πŸ™

At moments like this, I take a step back and try to think my way through the problem. I also make sure I have a separate copy of the document as it is now before I start making those changes. What if I decide the changes aren't working and I want the original back? I never do, but at least I'm comforted by the thought I can go back.

I was searching for images that suggested overwhelm when I came across an article that, while not about writing, is absolutely spot on if you think of it in terms of your writing business. Go read The Five Things in Your Home That Can Kill Your Home Business and see what you think.

The guy talks about Time Termites, which I love. There are Busy Bugs, Doubt Daubers, and Clutter Leeches, among others. Awesome terms and really puts into perspective what happens as you try to run a business from your home (which is pretty much where we all write).

I know these things all get me at one time or another. Time Termites are the worst, though the others have been known to rear their ugly heads as well. Like Busy Bugs: it's much easier to pretend to be busy, than to really be busy doing the hard work the business requires.

Knowing is the first step in conquering, so I'm being honest with myself and trying to shove overwhelm (and all that comes with it) back into the closet where it belongs.

Are you being invaded by the Time Termites or Doubt Daubers? Are the Busy Bugs misdirecting you? Did Clutter Leeches attack your desk? Is overwhelm perching on your shoulder?