How to take an Introvert to a Writer’s Conference

With the coming new year, a new writing conference season is also approaching, so we thought we’d help prepare our readers with a few posts related to conference-going. We’re beginning with a two-part mini-series by two of Inspire’s Board members, in which they tackle the issue of introversion (among other issues). First up is our Membership Director, Karen Schubert.


Hordes of people?

I don’t do chit-chat.

Share my story?

I’m not a real writer.

What’s chutzpah?

Do any of those sound familiar to anyone other than myself? Not yet? I have more.

I’ll just embarrass myself.

I’m afraid of rejection.

I don’t know enough.

It’s a circular problem when it comes to picking our introverted selves up and purposely hauling us out the door to a place full of people where we need to sell ourselves. Round and round the arguments go, each stepping on the heels of the last. And if chutzpah were the crux of the matter, we’d never make it.

But it isn’t.

This is what I want to talk about. Not how we need to change ourselves to meet this crisis. But how this crisis changes us. And more importantly, why God calls us out of ourselves to meet this challenge.

As an introvert, writing fits my personality. I share my thoughts and stories with myself. It sorts life out when I can write it out. But being an introvert often becomes an impediment and can feel like an impenetrable barrier to the next step—until God sticks his finger in and increases the stakes in the story.

I know all the promises. God calls. God equips. God accomplishes. But to know and to do are two different characters in the same story. A protagonist and an antagonist. I need to see the courage of the one and the chagrin of the other.

Here’s the story.

A few years back, I knew I should go to the huge upcoming writer’s conference. I had walked with God long enough to recognize the fire He started inside that couldn’t be ignored. So, I rounded up the funds, registered, and informed my writing group that I was going. I researched and lined up the workshops I wanted to attend and started praying daily for this big event.

That was the easy part.

I thought I was as ready as an introvert can be considering there would be more hours in each day than in workshops. I knew I would need to socialize and talk about myself. To prepare, I met with another member of my writing group for coffee who was also going. She showed up with a stack of notebooks filled to the brim with information she had collected about instructors and topics. My eyes glazed over and I went into a daze. To this day, I can’t tell you what all was in those notebooks.

How could I have been so ignorant? I knew nothing.

In spite of the lapse in courage, the day came. I had a few hours of alone time driving to the conference, but an uneasy thrill of butterflies interrupted the solitude. By the time I parked and unpacked, the thrill had invaded my body with the usual symptoms of stress.

Then came the big moment. Only an introvert understands the effort it takes to walk alone from a quiet cabin to a dining hall brimming with commotion and to choose a place to sit between strangers. No amount of pep-talks could ease that moment.

I survived. By the end of the conference, I was exhausted from the effort. But I was changed.

In those few short days, I grew as a writer. The workshops equipped me for the long haul. The personal stories that others shared sparked courage in this old protagonist to keep writing the next page. Through the prayers and comradery and fellowship, God strengthened His calling on my life. Strangely, I wanted more.

I went with the expectation of learning. What I didn’t expect was that God would use a conference to reach deep inside an introvert and clear out the cobwebs. My writing changed. My perspective of a writing career changed. My faith changed. I was suddenly part of a body of believers that all happened to also be writers. I came away wishing I could live next door to every single one of them. And that’s a huge concession for an introvert.

So, if you are contemplating taking an introvert to a conference, here are a few pointers.

  • Yes, there are crowds. But chances are, at least fifty percent are introverts.
  • Be prepared with chit-chat. Remember, the other person is as nervous as you.
  • Practice ahead of time what you want to share about your writing.
  • Remember, you’re a writer. Every experience adds tools for your journey. Especially tough ones. If this were easy, we wouldn’t be on our knees so much.
  • Chutzpah? It’s a Hebrew word and Hebrew was the language of Moses and Moses didn’t know how to speak, but God told him to write and look what he accomplished. Five books that we are still reading thousands of years later.

So go to your knees, fellow introverts, then get up and go to a writer’s conference.

About Karen Schubert 2 Articles
Karen lives with her husband in the Sierra Nevada foothills, dividing her time between writing literary fiction and painting the landscapes she loves.

4 Comments

  1. Lovely article, Karen. Thank you for prodding us into attending a conference! “No amount of pep-talks could ease that moment.” I love those words. They’re truer than true. I always thought the uneasiness would subside with each conference, but alas, it remains.

  2. Yes! The uneasiness. But maybe it’s the discomfort that heightens our senses at a conference and drives us to dig deeper into the craft.

    • Heightened senses. I love that. Yes! I completely agree. I think our discomfort causes acute awareness. We should be careful to engage when our instincts tell us to run and hide.

  3. Karen, you have clearly captured the enthusiasm and anxiety that this introvert experienced at my first Writer’s Conference. The tagline, ‘fish out of water’ comes to mind. But I made it through and return again and again to add to the layers of learning and exposure to the craft we strive to master. But clearly the best part is the blessings that unfold before you, the life long friends you make, and the confidence you acquire.
    Thank you. I hope our paths will cross again someday soon. In His timing!

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