Friday, June 11, 2010

VOLUNTEERING – THE WAY THE INTROVERT KICKS SAND IN THE FACE OF SHYNESS WHILE GOING ‘NEENER NEENER’

Hello, my name is Danielle Monsch, and I am an introvert. (Please ignore the hysterical laughter coming from my Romance Writers of America chapter mates who cannot believe those words actually passed my lips, or more accurately, were typed by my fingers.)

“Why the disbelief?” those of you who do not know me are probably asking right now.

The answer is, kinda because I’m everywhere. Every time someone enters an RWA meeting in the Seattle area, I’m there, blabbing in front about something. One chapter I’m VP of, the other I’m helping the Emerald City Writers Conference as the Asst. Conference chair. Both of these are high profile jobs, and between the two, I’m constantly running around, answering peoples questions, contacting speakers and locations – you name it, I’m dealing with it.

Rather begs the question, can someone who claims to be an introvert really do all that?

Well you see, it is exactly because I’m an introvert that I decided to do all this. Let me explain…

My natural inclination is to sit in a corner. If you leave me alone, roots might start growing around me because I don’t tend to move around and socialize much. Sad, I know, but true.

Now, far be it from me to burst any bubbles, but being an author involves more than sitting in front of your computer typing out a book. Wait, I take that back, being an author involves exactly that… but being a published author, not so much. You have to get out there. This business is all about relationships, your name known to the right person at the right time, so that they look on with interest at your Masterpiece that is in front of them.

People knowing your name, well, that cannot happen if you are sitting in a corner.
This is why I highly recommend all you introverts get out there and volunteer for your writing organizations. Volunteering forces you to do what does not come naturally – mingle and chat. It gives you a job to focus on. It forces you to talk, to learn, to network, to be open and engaging and make sure that needs are met on all sides. You don’t have a choice in the matter.

In many ways, volunteering is the perfect solution to the introverted personality.
So, have I convinced you to seriously consider volunteering, perhaps calling up your chapter board right now to see what you can do? Excellent, but as a quick word of warning, please keep these helpful hints in mind…

Don’t over-volunteer -- This is surprisingly easy to do, and I admit, bit me on the backside this year. This position sounds fun, they are really in a bind over here… before you know it, you have to cut things out of your everyday life to make sure you have the time to do your volunteer work… and what is the first thing that usually goes when we are short on time? Exactly, the writing. Obviously, not good, since one of the reasons to do this volunteer thing is to support your writing career. One thing you must keep in your head always is writing is first, then whatever time you have left over you can figure out how to use for volunteering. Don’t cut into your writing time.

Behave Professionally – Yes, you are giving up a lot of time and are not being paid, and yes, you will not like everyone that volunteers with you, or you will disagree on how to do things. Still, don’t act like a spoiled child and whine that not everything is exactly your way, or act entitled and believe everyone needs to jump at your words, never mind they are all volunteering themselves. Definitely don’t write a negative email about someone, because in a volunteer organization, you never know who has access to which email addresses, and the person you are mouthing off over just might have access to that email. Behave exactly as you would if you were in your place of employment. Remember, memories are long, especially about bad stuff.

Don’t volunteer more than one step above your comfort level – One step above comfort is fine, in fact, you should probably aim for that; overcoming our limitations is how we as people grow. However, if being behind the ‘Help’ desk is a big deal for you, don’t let someone talk you into running a conference. If they don’t have a position to fit you, don’t be afraid to say no. I guarantee, eventually they will need help with a project that is just your speed.

Don’t volunteer if the only reason you are volunteering is to network – Have I confused you with this one? I said you should volunteer to overcome the introvert’s inclination to sit in the corner, and you should, I stand by that. I also said that you should look at volunteering as a wonderful way to network, and I stand by that as well. People give a lot up while volunteering, so expecting a little back in goodwill and name recognition is not a lot to ask by any means, and no one should feel guilty for taking these into account.

The thing is, if these benefits are the ONLY reason you are volunteering and you have absolutely positively no interest at all in the helping out aspect of volunteering, then you are going to become miserable, as are the people around you. Volunteering is always more work than you originally think it will be, and if you don’t truly want the position, that will become evident very quickly. Your job either won’t be getting done or it will be slipshod work at best, which leads to people taking up your slack and working a lot harder than they had to, which means bad feelings all around before long.

Those happy networking feelings in such circumstances – not going to happen. So please, only volunteer if the job appeals to you and you will be happy doing it, at least on some level.

I truly believe in volunteering. Organizations such as RWA cannot survive without volunteers, and I believe in giving back when you can to places that help you out. That being said, getting an opportunity to overcome your shyness and help your career WHILE doing a worthy service, life just does not get much better than that.

~~~~~~~~~~
Danielle Monsch is the host of the podcast ‘Romantically Speaking’ which is available on iTunes! She is also VP of Eastside RWA and the Assistant Conference Chair of Emerald City Writers Conference, held every October in Seattle WA. She is also currently ‘pre-published’ (such a fancy phrase for saying “Not yet sold a book!”) - but she’s working on it.
Contact her at
Dani@DanielleMonsch.com or visit her at the following places: website www.DanielleMonsch.com, twitter www.twitter.com/DaniMonsch, or Facebook www.facebook.com/DanielleMonsch

12 comments:

  1. Thank you for this post, Danielle! As a soon-to-be published author, I'm feeling the need to get out there and DO even as I quake in my Crocs at the very idea. I'm going to stick with your advice to not go more than one step above my comfort level and to make myself say no when necessary. Yes, I will! :)

    Missy Welsh
    http://www.missywelsh.com

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  2. Hey Danielle! Thanks so much for coming on today. Great post. And it's a nice virtual kick in the butt for me to volunteer.

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  3. Very thoughtful post Danielle. I think people do forget that it's not only that you volunteer, but HOW you volunteer that makes just as big as an impression.

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  4. Amen to everything you wrote, Danielle. I'm definitely an introvert, but give me a job to do that provides me a good opportunity for interaction with people and I'm your gal. Hence the umpteen years as an Emerald City Writers' Conference volunteer in one of the many chair roles. Being a conference or writing chapter volunteer is a great way to meet people and build a professional reputation. I just wish I'd been using my pen name all those years! So, here's a little tidbit of advice from someone who learned this the hard way -- When volunteering in a high profile role like writer's conference chair, definitely use your pen name if you plan to use one professionally. People will remember you and your name, especially when you help provide them a positive experience.

    Thanks Danielle and Rebecca on a great blog post!

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  5. I could have written parts of this post myself! I am a natural introvert but I force myself to get out there and meet people. Volunteering is a great way to do that. I volunteered in my kids' classrooms and somehow ended up on the executive board of my PTA. While it forced me to meet the hundreds of teachers and thousands of parents in my district, it was an "over-volunteer," and way above my comfort level. I recently joined my local RWA chapter and, keeping my PTA experience in mind, sat on my hands to keep myself from volunteering to chair a committee. I do want to contribute to my wonderful RWA chapter (Chicago-North, by the way) so I'll happily serve ON a committee. But chairing one, especially while I'm so new and an introvert, is above my comfort level. Maybe next year!

    Thanks for a great post.

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  6. Rebecca,

    Thanks once again for the wonderful opportunity to guest on your blog. I appreciate you letting me share my thoughts.

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  7. Missy,

    I'm glad what I wrote reached you. I know it might be a little overwhelming at first, but start small, and it will be fine. Congratulations on getting published!

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  8. Wendy,

    You are a great inspiration to those of us in the Seattle area. We appreciate all the work you do for the writers here. I agree, and that is one thing I really should have put in the post! If you have a pen name, let people know you as such :)

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  9. Hi Jaycee,

    Again, I think most of us have a real desire to help, so we want to get out there with both barrels blazing. It does a disservice to both ourselves and the organization we are volunteering for to not consider the real demands on our time, and to volunteer accordingly.

    Volunteering somewhere is a real gift to your organization, and you should not be down on yourself for 'just' volunteering in this position, that is really the wrong way to look at it. You should be commended for putting yourself out there.

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  10. Excellent post, Danielle...and you definitely gave me a lot to think about!

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  11. Great post, Danielle. I especially loved your comments about behaving professionally. Having been a board member before, I'm always amazed what goes on behind the scenes and how rude people can be to those outside their "clique". You might not like a person, but if that person can get the job done, then that's all that matters. If people enter a volunteer position with a narrow-minded, "my way or the highway" point of view, then perhaps they shouldn't volunteer. That kind of attitude certainly discourages any future volunteers.
    Just my 2 cents.

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