why writers should talk to people (and dogs)

Dog Intelligence

Writers. We’re notoriously reticent in social gatherings, assuming you can drag us into a social gathering to begin with. For many of us, this earns a reputation of being self-involved and aloof, when in reality we’re just really awkward and shy.

For instance, another writer?who comes across as extremely confident in his work and in giving readings?admitted to me one-on-one this week that he still hasn’t really figured out the “being social thing.” We were setting up for an author reading at the time, and his comment inspired me to make the rounds and say, “Hello,” to the people at each table in the joint, even if I quickly sidled away immediately afterwards.

Then there’s also the issue of non-writers often being hesitant to approach writers. (Read above about people assuming we’re aloof.) People are unnecessarily intimidated by writers, and I’m not sure precisely why?even though I’ve gotten nervous when interviewing the likes of Robert J. Sawyer, Jim Butcher, Jeff Greenwald and Stan Schmidt.

Maybe it’s because we’re inherently quite weird. Maybe it’s because we’re constantly scribbling things down on little bits of paper that spill out of our pockets and stick to the bottoms of other people’s shoes. I’ve long suspected that my family likes to talk about having a writer in their brood, but then they’re somewhat reluctant to actually talk to me, afraid they and their anecdotes might end up as fodder for a future novel or essay. (And they’re right.)

But yesterday I was reminded of why it’s important to step outside of my own bashfulness when it comes to interacting with other human beings.

I was out power-walking in the morning and found myself coming up behind one of my neighbors who was out strolling with her German Shepherd. Now, my dog and her dog don’t get along. My dog is actually kind of a jerk to her dog. When I’m out with the banshee, Jackie and her dog understandably will beat a hasty retreat when they see us coming. Since Jackie and I haven’t otherwise had much interaction, I of course assumed that she hated me. (Maybe writers are easily paranoid, too.)

I was sans chien on yesterday’s walk, and so made a point to say “Good morning” to my neighbor and to apologize directly to her dog for my dog’s bad behavior. That made Jackie laugh. The next thing I knew, we were walking along together, talking about the neighborhood and the fate of independent bookstores. I hadn’t known until that moment that Jackie works in pretty stellar indie bookstore here in town. Good to know. Then a friend of hers walked up, and Jackie started telling the newcomer about my most recent book. I’d no idea Jackie even knew I was a writer, much less that I’d published novels. She told this other lady about Valhalla and urged her to buy it.

I probably made a book sale yesterday, all because I said, “Hello,” and tried to make amends with a dog.

Yes, most of the times I try to interact with people in the “real world,” I end up feeling like a total spaz. (That actually might not be unique to writers.) But I’m working on it. And I do think that being on good terms with my neighbor’s dog is more important than making that book sale?because, let’s face it, dogs are awesome.

Creative Commons photo by alicejamieson.

Posted in writing & publishing.

One Comment

  1. See, more often than not, it pays to open your mouth! But I agree, I always have to give myself that internal push to actually do it. Good for you that you did.

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