People Who Need People (Sometimes)

fish-bowlIf you didn’t know better, you’d think I was an extrovert. After all, it’s my job to talk to people.

But I’ll tell you the truth: I’m definitely an introvert. Like the other Debs, it took me a long time to figure this out. Because here’s the thing: if I’m working, I can talk to anyone. In that scenario, I have a mission and a reason. Call it something more casual, though, and I have a harder time. Because then it’s just me, putting myself out there. And that can be awkward at best.

Networking. That’s definitely one of the words on my hate list. It’s so forced and stiff and, I don’t know, predatory? It’s not about making a natural connection, one built on shared interests or purpose or laughter. It’s about What can you do for me? (Or the reverse: What do you want from me?) And it’s the worst kind of social interaction. Tragically, it’s a backbone in journalism. And it’s definitely key in screenwriting, where whom you know is so much of what makes or breaks you.

And so I thought, as I settled into writing fiction, that I was looking forward to the solitary confinement, spending hours locked in a room of my own (which I have yet to get!), scribbling away. I tried that, and it worked for a few months. But then I realized that, despite what I’ve written above about being an introvert, in the writerly sense, I love the idea of collaboration. I love talking through story, meeting like-minded people, seeing how their brains work. I love the camaraderie and the understanding and the candidness, the fact that we can be honest and talk shop and bemoan the downs and celebrate the highs. The fun of being in the presence of other smart, thoughtful, creative people – people who get it without me having to explain everything.

Having been through the MFA experience, I’ve realized something else: I love people, but in small groups. I can’t take the cliques and the mean girls and the toxicity – high school is long over for me. I don’t have the patience for it. So, like in everything in life, it’s about finding your writerly tribe – the people who are genuine, who don’t like or dislike you based on your advances and sales numbers, who will support you and be happy for you, or lift you up when you are down. The people who become not just colleagues, but friends. Those people? Not so easy to find. But so worth suffering the initial networky interactions for – because when you find the real deal, it’s like magic!

What I’m saying is: I’m an introvert who needs people. Not a lot of people. And specifically the right people. But people, none the less.

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An entertainment and lifestyle journalist published by The New York Times, People, ABC News, MSN, Cosmopolitan and other major national media, SONA CHARAIPOTRA currently curates a kickass column on YA books and teen culture for Parade.com. A collector of presumably useless degrees, she double-majored in journalism and American Studies at Rutgers before getting her masters in screenwriting from New York University (where her thesis project was developed for the screen by MTV Films) and her MFA from the New School. When she's not hanging out with her writer husband and two chatter-boxy kids, she can be found poking plot holes in teen shows like Twisted and Vampire Diaries. But call it research: Sona is the co-founder of CAKE Literary, a boutique book development company with a decidedly diverse bent. Her debut, the YA dance drama Tiny Pretty Things (co-written with Dhonielle Clayton), is due May 26 from HarperTeen. Find her on the web at SonaCharaipotra.com or CAKELiterary.com.

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This article has 4 Comments

  1. Loved your post today… just what I needed after learning that I must attend yet another “work event” for networking purposes. Sigh. I never had a perfect word to describe how networking feels to me, but “predatory” pretty much does the trick! (Stifled a guffaw when I read that one!) Your pearls of wisdom are much appreciated as well – surrounding yourself with genuine folks keeps us all looking and we get to meet the characters of the world along the way!

  2. . . . .I’m an introvert who needs people. Not a lot of people. And specifically the right people. But people, none the less”.
    . . . people none the less? ” I guess that is the real test for being a human whether you are a writer or a reader. Very well stated. Genuine pearls of wisdom. Going by this test I might give myself C+ as a writer who needs to do better. Thanks for sharing!

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