Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Why the Reclusive Writer Needs People Skills

If you've seen me speak, you will notice that I start a little shy then build momentum as I get wrapped up in what I have to say. People seem to enjoy my talks, and I always strive to be worthy of every attendee in the audience. After all, just like when someone buys my book to spend hours reading, these people took time out of their day to hear me speak. But it's not easy for me because I prefer the solitude of my study.

But I've learned along the way that writers need a certain degree of people skills to make this business work. Out of all the speakers at a recent conference I attended, only one could be  labeled extrovert, and she was a professional public speaker teaching . . . wait for it . . . how to speak in public.

Writers eventually must confront people. Yes, that's how most perceive it . . . confronting. Not that they dislike people, it's just they perform best without a crowd. Bear with them. They are trying.

I recently read a piece entitled "10 People Skills Every Government Employee Should Have." Having spent 25 years with the feds, most of it as some level of manager, I am nerdy enough to still read material about that environment. As I studied each skill on the list, I realized these apply to writers who have to crawl out of their holes to sell books, speak to crowds, attend critique groups and conferences, deal with bookstores, or address agents, publishers and editors. See if you've mastered this list of people skills, and which might need more of your attention. I've combined some since they are closely akin:

1. Openmindedness / Tolerance
Not everyone will love our writing, style, dress, characters, or home state/country. Many people judge too quickly. Be the person in the room who doesn't pass judgment so quickly, and is willing to entertain what others have to say. We often have to utilize this one in chat rooms and on listservs where anonymity or distance empowers some people to express their views.

2. Listening
Introverts are amazing listeners, so you might have this trait down pat. Just remember that every person has a right to be heard . . . at least for a few moments. Being a good listener often gets perceived as being smart, and as a minimum, polite.

3. Empathy
Put yourself in the other person's shoes. We often fail to use empathy when we are rejected, or someone leaves a poor review of our work. Be empathetic and you are more likely to retain a fan or acquire an editor for a future project.

We might be overly aware of ourselves, but take it a step further. Understand what makes you behave the way you do so you prevent yourself from overreacting, getting worked up, or becoming frustrated. Have personal adjustment tools at the ready.
5. Patience
This business is anything but high-paced. Accept it. Others won't respond as quickly as we'd like. We often forget that they have more to do than serve our needs.
6. Stress Management
Writing is actually a low-stress profession. Whatever stress happens, we bring on ourselves. Just remember that. Have skills in place to chill when you don't think things are occurring as you would prefer.

7. Leadership
But we work for ourselves, right? None of us works in a bubble. Even in a forum as simple as Facebook, you can recognize leaders and followers. Leaders are motivators, and you want that skill in your portfolio.
8. Negotiation Skills
Why do you think writers love agents? Why do you think many self-publish instead of traditionally publish? One of the key reasons of both is so the writer doesn't have to negotiate terms. You can't dodge it forever. Sooner or later you'll have to discuss options with someone, with the hope of getting your way . . . especially if you decide to freelance and take on clients.

9. Courtesy
Negative behavior doesn't compliment anyone. We can brag about getting our way or overcoming someone's pig-headed stance, but if we aren't courteous in the process, we aren't very likeable. This is one of the most important skills of all.

What people skill do you need to work on? Or what skill do you think is missing from the list?

1 comment:

Linda Hoye said...

Excellent post, Hope. I'd rather be a recluse writer too...but, alas, that won't pay the bills!