It’s Not All About You – Or Me
Last Wednesday in response to my call for readers to contribute their own additions to the writers conference checklist, one wise person wrote, “Don’t make it all about you.”
I had been thinking of including that exact tidbit in my original list because it’s so important. But I ended up leaving it off my list because there didn’t seem time to explain this one. It’s a wise piece of advice, but the problem is that I’ve met earnest writers at conferences who have taken this whole “don’t make it all about you” to heart and then taken it to extremes.
At a conference, or in any social situation, the key to lessening your insecurity and self-consciousness is to stop thinking so much about yourself—how others might see you, what they’re thinking of you—and focus on others. Realize they’re more concerned about themselves than about you. To lessen your own discomfort, you can ask people questions about themselves, about their writing, about how their conference is going, etc. You can be genuinely interested in them.
With people who tend to make you more nervous (agents and editors?) you can remember their humanity. They have good days, bad days… even bad hair days. They have families and kids and the same stresses you do. You can also remind yourself that the whole reason they’re at the conference is to meet YOU. Yes, you. Cool, huh?
You can see things from others’ perspectives, making the experience “not all about you.” You can even adopt the attitude of “How can I bless others while I’m here?” Putting the emphasis on others.
Try not to take this too far. Only do it as far as it’s actually genuine for you. And don’t take the focus off yourself at moments when the focus is appropriately on you. In an editor meeting, it’s nice to begin with a tiny bit of small talk if you want, asking them how they’re doing or some other innocuous question. But don’t let it go overboard so that it seems like you’re (1) trying too hard to be flattering so that it feels fake or obsequious, or (2) trying too hard to avoid the reason you’re there—your pitch.
Keep reminding yourself we are all at the conference for a common purpose. We all love books! Agents and editors are there specifically to interact with you, so try to remember that when you feel nervous. Above all, you can focus on glorifying God through your words and actions, and blessing others with your presence. That way it’s not about you.