Friday, August 27, 2010

Teamwork for Introverts

Please welcome debut author Susanna Fraser to the blog. Her first book is out this week with Carina Press.
Here's Susanna: Since my first book released just this week, I’m nowhere near the “quit day job” point in my writing career. I’ve been out of college for over 15 years now, and in that time I’ve amassed quite the stack of performance evaluations.

They’re positive, for the most part. I’ve been praised as everything from meticulous to tactful to efficient to being good at defusing tense moments with deadpan humor. And a few bosses have valued my self-sufficient, independent work style.

But far more have said, “Susanna needs to work on her teamwork skills.”

Because, you see, I’m a classic introvert. I find it hard to be “on” socially all the time, and I’m not good at delegating or sharing responsibility for a task. To my mind, most meetings are big time-wasters--why spend an hour talking when you could just shoot each other emails that could be read and responded to in 5-10 minutes?

It’s not that I don’t like people. I just find it easier to work on my own. Even when my husband and I are, say, cleaning the house in preparation for a party, I find it easier to split the house into sectors than to clean side-by-side. My ideal job would be one where I sat in an office with my door closed, spitting out completed projects and reports, for which my boss would email her thanks and praise. I’d occasionally come out for lunch or happy hour with my colleagues, because I’m far better at socializing with people than working with them.

So you can see why, even aside from my love of storytelling, I dream of being a full-time author. Writing a book is the ultimate solitary project. (Except for the occasional sets of co-authors, and frankly, they baffle me!) Even if you have critique partners or brainstorming buddies, in the end it’s you and your words, all by yourself, at the moment of creation. I dream of getting up each morning, sending my husband and daughter off to work and school, and then spending the day sequestered in blissful solitude, curled up with my research books and churning out my daily page quota.

But if you want to sell your book, at some point you’re going to have to interact with other humans. You’ll have an editor, and you’ll also have at least some contact with legal/contracts, publicity/marketing, and possibly whoever is responsible for your cover art and back cover copy. And you need to treat these people as part of a team who share your goal of seeing your book find its readership.

You don’t need to give them everything they want--unless you honestly think they’re 100% right--but neither should you dig in your heels and refuse to cooperate. Because you really don’t want the people who can decide they don’t want to buy your next book to think your teamwork skills suck.

It helps that 99% of your interactions with your publishing team are likely to be by email. Remember that you don’t have to reply right away. In fact, if you’re feeling at all stressed, anxious, or angry about what just hit your inbox, then DON’T reply right away. Wait until you’re sure you’re capable of being calm, fair, and rational. Remember that YOU’RE ON A TEAM. Everyone wants your book to succeed. And while you’re the expert of your book, you’re NOT the expert on cover art or marketing strategy, for example. If you don’t like your editor’s suggestions, for example, try to understand what made her raise the issue and come up with a way to address her concerns that’s true to the story.

I want to stress in all this that I really enjoy being part of the Carina team. I had a blast working with my editor and I love how my cover turned out. But in a way I’m glad I got published now and not nine years ago when I first started writing, because all those workplace performance reviews from the past decade have made me much more aware of the challenges being a natural loner presents me when it comes time to be part of a team!

What about you? Is teamwork a challenge for you, too, or does your introversion manifest in a different form? Commenters will be entered in a drawing to win a free download of The Sergeant’s Lady, my debut historical romance release from Carina Press.

Susanna Fraser was born and raised in small-town Alabama, but now makes her home in Seattle with her husband and 6-year-old daughter. She manages research grants by day, writes on evenings, weekends, and lunch hours, and in her occasional spare time goes to baseball game and sings alto in a local choir. Her first book, The Sergeant’s Lady, is an Aug. 23 release from Carina Press. You can learn more about her on her blog.

11 comments:

  1. Thanks, Susanna, for coming on today. And a big congrats on your book release this week. How exciting!

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  2. We share the same dreams, Susanna!

    I am good as part of a team but prefer to work alone (if that makes sense) ;)

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  3. Yikes, can I relate!

    I'm a closet introvert but most of the careers and jobs that I've had in my life--including that of a writer--have required me to be more extroverted. Unless you live on a deserted island somewhere (and wouldn't that be lovely!), I'm not sure it's possible to be too introverted.

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  4. COngrats on the release- can't wait to read it.

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  5. Hi Susanna,

    I think there is a spectrum of introvert. I like working alone for awhile, then interacting with others, and then sinking back into introversion.

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  6. I think a balance of introvert and extrovert is important. I teach at a college (it supports my writing habit :)) and when I'm in front of a classroom, I have to be outgoing and confident. It's just part and parcel of the job.

    At the same time, there's a lot of the time where I just need personal 'head time' to think and read and consider my writing. Where I'm not expected to entertain or teach. Both skills are important for a writer, IMHO, even if they aren't our natural tendency. We need to market ourselves but we also need to write and draw from ourselves to create real life characters for our books.

    Elyse, the magical tightrope walker LOL

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  7. Elyse, I've had a lot of people be surprised that I'm an introvert, because I too can be outgoing and confident under the right circumstances. My introversion mainly shows in a preference for working alone and in that I recharge through alone time rather thean social time.

    Other-Susanna, in my ideal world, I *work* alone and *play* with others. I think I started disliking team projects back when they were first assigned to us in, like, 6th grade, at least in part because it so often turned into me doing all the work for four people. I've gotten better, but there's still part of me that thinks, "Do we really need all these MEETINGS?!"

    Thanks, Sherry!

    Liz, I'm actually writing a deserted island story right now, only of course there are TWO people on it, who at first can't think of anyone worse to be stuck on a tiny scrap of land with.

    Toni, I know what you mean. I do my best teamwork when each person has a well-defined role. It's the more amorphous kind that's challenging.

    Thanks for having me here today, Rebecca!

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  8. I come out on the introvert side, but I can work in a team if necessary. I do prefer to work on my own though, because I know things will get done. ;)

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  9. Ooh, Shelley Munro! Issy's Infatuation was the first erotic romance I'd ever read. Thanks so much for stopping by.

    :)Becky

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  10. I am definitely more introverted. Team work can be the better option given certain tasks but most of the time I'd rather work alone.

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  11. Definitely an introvert--I can play with others, but often prefer not to ;) Doesn't that sound awful? :D

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