the unexpected extrovert

I got business cards.

Aren’t they cute? They’re little half-size MOO cards and came all bundled up in the dearest little box. I’m pretty excited about them.

I know, I know, it’s like business cards? What business do you think you’re even in, punk?

Well. I’m working on that part. The writing world is in crisis, remember? Electronic media will be the death of us all! But in the mean time, I want to show off my website. I want people to read my writing. And I sure as hell want them to be able to spell my last name.

A few months ago, when it was winter break and I was despairing about my ability to get any kind of job upon graduation, I took the advice of my Chief Career Advisor/Dad and got in touch with people in the communications field–PR types, journalists, people in university news offices. I talked to about 25 people in person and over the phone, took notes, asked questions, tried to ascertain how to break into this field. “Networking is just another word for making friends,” he told me. Easy for an ENTJ* to say! Still, with maybe one exception, they were all incredibly nice and eager to be helpful and set me on the right career path.

But that path wasn’t really my dream life. My dream was pretty much a scene straight from Barbara Kingsolver’s memoir Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, wherein I get up early to trellis tomatoes and till sweet potatoes before settling in with some home-baked toast and working on my novel for seven hours. Networking had nothing to do with this career. Farmers and writers do not, conventionally, get business cards.

Somehow, though, a few days after the creation of this site and the decision that I’m Really Going To Start Being A Writer Right Now Dammit, it was me who dragged my writing friends out to Uncharted Books for a writer’s cocktail hour. It only made half-sense. Yes, there would be cocktails, but it would also probably go longer than an hour and there would also be other writers there which, ugh. I have never thought that I could get along with other writers, because I’d either be jealous of them or they’d look down on me. When you want to write light, comic, or heaven forbid, genre fiction (yes, that means romance. dealwithit.gif), you are at best a laughable novelty and at worst a shit-for-brains hack. Kate is spot-on when she talks about dreading meeting with other writers. I’d spent most of high school utterly unwilling to talk about writing with my friends, because they all knew how to be writers. They were up on whatever contemporary poetry reviews we were supposed to have read and had serious opinions about Dave Eggers and Zadie Smith, while I was rereading PG Wodehouse novels and trying to write a romance taking place in medieval Ireland.

But something was different now. I dressed in the outfit I know think of as “Blair Thornburgh, Girl Writer,” complete with jaunty silk scarf and sparkly eyeliner for extra courage. Armed with a glass of bourbon, I proceeded to chat the hell out of these people. And? It was surprisingly easy to talk to people. It’s just talking! Nobody wants to hurt you! And certainly not if you’re interested in what they have to say, which was almost always the case. I met craft-makers and improv actors and bakery owners and programmers and, yes, other writers. I could bounce around the room, talk about my work, and listen about theirs. I introduced myself for the first time as a writer, not as “a student” or, worse, an “aspiring writer.” No modifier, no shame, no worries. Lots of fun.

In the mean time, I found the courage to email some writers that I admire. And not only did they not respond with “get the hell out of my email inbox I HAVE WORK TO DO,” but they gave me good, solid, concrete advice on how to move forward in my career. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t done this yet. Informational interviews weren’t limited to just office careers I was lukewarm about, but also count in the realm of writers. Which makes perfect sense, now that I think about it. Humans are strange little social creatures, and plugging into our fellows keeps us going.

“You’re a networking machine!” my friend Cecilia told me in the car on the way back from the party. Maybe? I think I was just making friends. So maybe this is more the story of One Girl Comes To Term With Her Social Anxiety, but I hope there’s something in it for you, too. Like it doesn’t hurt to approach other people. Or email complete strangers fan letters. Or print up some business cards.

I mean, the worst they can do is throw it out.

*I, of course, am an INFP

Posted in Writing

4 Responses to the unexpected extrovert

  1. Cecilia says:

    [woot-woot, shout-out.] I like this. It reminds me of something I read recently about lobbyists, and why they work. Some history and google-searching didn’t turn it up, but the point was that these people are actually the legislators’ friends, and that’s why they listen to them.
    Not to get off topic.

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  3. Rosemary Connors says:

    Hi Blair – I had lunch with your dad today and he was boasting (as only your chief career adviser would) about the website and your writing. I think this is all just great and I am looking forward to keeping up with what you are doing. The intersection of food/writing/life is a topic that resonates deeply with me, too, so I applaud you for actually going out there and *writing*.

    He mentioned the gig with The Forward too – congrats! – and that tripped my brain to my favorite book, Miriam’s Kitchen by Elizabeth Ehrlich, which I am currently re-reading. It’s a memoir about a modern Jewish woman, the secular and religious Jews in her family, and her decision to start keeping kosher. And it has recipes! I think I made kugel from there once. Thought I would pass it along.

    Looking forward to upcoming posts.
    Be well,
    Rosemary

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