First Impressions

Did you know that the original title of Pride and Prejudice was

First Impressions?

No, this post is not about P&P. I just thought that was an interesting bit of trivia.

This post is about first impressions. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. A lot of stuff is happening in my life to which first impressions are… well, relevant.

You only have one chance to make a first impression on someone and hopefully, it is a good one.

Did you ever notice that when you are not yet discovered as an author, you go through multiple revisions and editings and sometimes even several novels, whereas it seems that once you are working with an agent or editor, they get the first draft or one of the early ones and not one of the one you work so hard to perfect first? At least, that’s how it seems to me from what I’ve seen from various published authors.

Part of this is because you grow as a writer, constantly getting better. But I also believe that when you are querying, part of what you are doing is proving yourself. That is why editing is so important. That is why writing a good query letter is so important. You have one chance to make a good first impression.

Same goes for a lot of other stuff. Take a look at your Twitter profile. What does the combination of your picture and bio say about you? What about your Twitter handle?

“Writer. Reader. Tolkienite. Mistborn. Whatever you call a Les-Mis fangirl. Dragon-owner. I create worlds with ink and paper and 26 letters.”

That’s my Twitter bio. My pic is currently a picture of me with a handful of lilies. My handle is @SherwoodWriter because I used to go by “Robyn Hoode”. What does this say about me? I’m a writer and a reader and a fangirl. I like dragons. I’m imaginative. I have good taste in literature. All this, plus my tweets, I hope, conveys that I’m a friendly, sweet girl, generally speaking.

But let’s get offline for a minute and talk about life off a computer screen.

Outside of the internet, I’m a terrified, shy thing. I obsess more over what people think (I obsess over that online, too, but hiding behind a computer screen and halfway across the country/world helps me open up). But once I know you’re friendly and I’m comfortable talking to you, I’ll tell you just about anything. That tends to lead to my downfall…

Why do I do that? Why do I always ending up saying something weird and causing an awkward silence? Eventually, at some point, it happens. How does it happen? And how do I make it stop?

I have a thing with the word “weird”. When someone (*coughsiblingcough*) says I’m weird, I smile and say thanks. When a good friend (online) says the same thing, I try to shake it off and smile like before. It’s been many years since someone offline has said I’m weird. Maybe that’s because we’ve all matured and one does not simply call a 23 year old lady weird to her face. Or that all the people who called me weird in the first place are people I long lost contact with. Or maybe I’ve grown out of publicly weird and I’m just still scared of it. Who even knows? I just know that I don’t want anyone to perceive me as weird (if you do, just don’t use the word “weird”; I’ll take eccentric or strange, but not weird). I don’t want to be known as naive either, now that I think about it. I think the best of everyone (unless you give me a bad feeling– sorry to all those people who are perfectly nice but give me a bad feeling. I’ll either eventually get used to you or avoid you at all costs).

I am some weird cross between Mr. Darcy and Jane Bennet. I am exceedingly socially awkward but all the world is good in my eyes.

And here we are, back to First Impressions.

Enough beating around the bush. My family is looking for a new church. As a former homeschooler and current “stay-at-home-writer”, church is about the only regular, offline interaction with non-relatives I have. (I know plenty of homeschoolers and writers who have had much more out-of-the-house interaction than I have– I just haven’t.)

I think that, to an extent, we all want to be accepted and fit in. We don’t want to be alone. We all want friends. No one wants to be the oddball. No one wants to feel left out. And I also know that if you want to be friends, you have to make an effort at it. Sometimes, it actually feels like an effort.

So, finding a new church and meeting new people is a big deal to me. The church we’re currently looking at has a young adults class and therefore GASP! young adults.

I have a chance to make friends. I also have a chance to eliminate of the facet of my personality that isn’t social, that’s scared of mingling, that hides in corners, hoping that someone will start a conversation. Not really the wallflower, but… yeah. Wallflower is a pretty accurate description.

Excuse me while I go bang my head up against a wall because of that realization…

Why is this hard? I want to be an touring author one day. I want to do book signings and readings and panels. And here I am, terrified of being the center of attention and terrified of going up to someone and saying “hi”.

John Green says that writing is a profession for introverts because we can tell you a story without making eye-contact.

Theorectically speaking, I should be able to do this. I should be able to be confident and act like I am anything but an introvert. That whole “fake it until you make it” thing.

I just realized that I have spent this whole post implying that introverts can’t/don’t have friends. Whoops. Sorry. That’s not what I meant at all.

SIGH. And now I’m rambling. I need to think about this some more. I don’t know what I’m going to do, yet. I’d like to be confident. And I am terrified of it. I might need someone to come and give me a little shove out of my comfort zone…

Pride and Prejudice gives me hope. First impressions, while important, aren’t everything. So, even if I screw everything up with the first impression at this new church, there’s still hope and still a chance to change what was originally thought of me. (And I can’t mess it up as bad as Mr. Darcy did with his at that first dance [I’m just not that conceited], so I’m probably going to be fine.)

You guys deserve cookies for reading this. Especially since my blogging has gotten sporadic of late. . I don’t agree with the first part of this quote. Writing does not have to be a lone endeavor. Most of my best friends are writers. And even through all this talk of making new friends, the online writer friends I have are still some of the most awesome people on the planet.

Don’t Forget to Be Awesome. All of you.

 And Don’t Be Mr. Darcy. That doesn’t make a good first impression.

Fitzwilliam Darcy’s inner struggles: 4/? ... • Bam! Said the lady.
I swear, someone else captioned this. It just fit too well to leave out. I’d also like to add that I prefer Colin Firth over Matthew Macfadyen.

8 thoughts on “First Impressions

  1. Oh gosh, I relate to this post way more than I wanted to admit. And yet here I am, admitting it. Well.

    I totally get the “weird” thing, too, even if I don’t so much have a problem with that particular word. I kind of… well, I overthink things. I even overthink my overthinking-ness. Somebody can say something perfectly ordinary or even compliment me, and I may take it as it was intended to begin with, but you can be rest assured that within the next day, I’ll have thought about it and tried to pick it apart and read between the lines (and often, I wonder if there was actually anything between the lines at all, or if I’m imagining things), and it’ll probably turn from a compliment into some kind of insult in my head.
    But at the same time, and here’s the best part, I also like to say what I think, and sometimes, especially online, I can be a little bit blunt. So there have been so many times where I will say something without thinking about it, and then somebody will react (or not react), and I’ll agonize over it for days.

    Heh. I am not one of those more social homeschooled writers, though. My only offline social outlet is also church, and I recently discovered that I have a nasty habit of subconsciously refusing to make eye-contact with people I don’t know. Since I’ve been going to this church since I was like five, I don’t think I so much have to worry about first impressions anymore, but I don’t think I’m making a good whatever-impression, nevertheless. Maybe that’s why I have like…very few friends there. I know quite a few people (well, not really, considering the church’s size…it’s enormous), but I think there’s only one person that I am all that close to (and our relationship can basically be described as: “hey, we should get together and do something sometime!” “Yeah!” [a while later] “Well, so much for that. Let’s try again.” [Repeat.])

    I don’t think I’d make a very good touring author if I’m scared to make eye-contact with my readers. Or my clients, if I really do follow my dream of designing book covers.

    Anyway, I don’t even know what the point of my comment is, hehe, I think I went on a tangent. So I guess I’ll just wish you luck here. You can do it!
    And I can do it, too. Letting myself make eye-contact with people, that is.
    We can both do it!

  2. *Hugs.*

    You, my dear, are wonderful and amazing. (After all the pep-talking you’ve done for me and wisdom-teeth stuff and late night video chats, I think I have some authority on this matter.) You’ll make it through this transition. The worst thing that could happen is that yeah, it’s a little awkward at first. I guarantee you that you won’t be the only one worried about first impressions. At least you know they won’t mistake you for something horrible, like a serial killer. 😛 Don’t worry about being confident. If you’re not there yet, you’ll get there someday. There’s nothing shameful about being shy. And when the day comes that you become a best-selling author, if you’re still nervous, you’ll just ask your publisher if you can bring me along, and we’ll have a jolly good time of it.

    You know that if you ever need to talk about anything, my inbox/Google Hangouts is waiting. As far as our friendship goes, being comfortable and talking about anything and everything has certainly not lead to your downfall. Quite the opposite, in fact.

    Even we borderline extravert/introverts worry about first impressions and have day-mares about things we’ve said coming across wrong and over-think things people have said. Everyone does. It’s a fact of life. We muddle through.

    *Makes mental note about the “weird” thing.*

    *More hugs.*

  3. Like I told you, I understand this so much. Except the “weird” thing. I don’t have problems with that. But I’ll keep it in mind so I don’t do that to you. Heh.

    We moved when I was eleven, leaving the church I’d grown up in. I literally had no idea how to make friends. My friends were made for me almost by default–the kids I’d grown up with in Sunday School class since I was three. I do not remember how I figured out which two girls I particularly enjoyed spending time with, and neither do I remember what exactly we did on our “playdates” (which were, with one girl, even scheduled by our moms solely). We had a homeschool co-op, but that was 90% our church anyway.

    I have a rather vivid memory of VBS in fourth grade, which was not at our church, and in fact, I knew no one who was attending that week. I showed up the first day and, after the mandatory introductions, I had no idea what to do or say to anyone. I worked up enough courage to say hello to one of the girls, but she basically ignored me. That week hurt. It was my first memorable experience with people who already had their group of friends and weren’t willing to include another. Then we moved here, and VBS in fifth grade was basically a repeat of that, only even worse.

    And you know? There was no one around here my age. I mean, there were a few girls in the neighborhood my age, but…I’d never really been friends before with anyone who didn’t go to church. I can’t think of more than two or three things we had in common, and after the first summer-ish, I gave up.

    Even after church plant days ended, and I made some acquaintances at American Heritage Girls and our new church, I still haven’t figured out the next problem–what on earth do I do with these people? I’m not ten anymore. “Playdates” won’t cut it. I don’t go shopping, I don’t go to the movie theater, I don’t swim, I hate amusement parks or anything that involves a lot of standing outside in the ridiculously hot weather, I hate sports, and I will nearly always downright refuse to do something goofy publicly. Let’s face it: I’m a pretty boring, recluse-ish person at times and I’m rather clueless as to how teenagers “hang out.”

    I’m also terrible at starting conversations beyond “Hi, how are you?” Once recently I was going to ask a girl something but for some crazy reason unbeknownst to me, I just could not make myself do it. No idea why!

    So. Yes. I get it. Really and truly. There are times it feels like I’ve lived here my whole life and this church really feels like mine, but the vast majority of the time I still feel like a stranger. And I won’t even get into how awkward it is when people talk about what happened when they were all younger… But the important thing is, I can get past that if I work at it. If I take a deep breath and just talk to people. I’ve got to work on it, yeah, and I keep forgetting, yeah, and it’ll be awkward the first, oh, three dozen times…but the point is that at least then I’ll have done something. And surely that’ll get me further than waiting to be spoken to first.

    *ahem* Speech over. Sorry. I hope this was helpful…somehow.

    • Whoops. Messed up the strike through. It was supposed to end after the sentence about people talking about what happened when they were younger. 😛

  4. I understand this situation, being an introverted homeschooled writer myself…but I’m comfortable with chatting with other people, in general. I’m not really sure whether or not my icebreaking is any good, since everyone from my best friends to the librarians to the kids at the barn I ride at are all people I’ve known for years. And anyone outside that circle of acquaintances isn’t someone I’m likely to talk to. My family is part of a homeschool group that meets sporadically, but only a few of the kids are around my age and I can’t bring myself to chat with the little kids. Then there’s book club, which is just my brother, a close friend, and a few kids I’ve known for a while, so I usually will talk a lot there. And horseback riding, where the girls in my lesson are typically very friendly and easy to talk to. So I guess you could say I’m not really shy, but not outgoing either.

    The fact that I’ve said this much makes it pretty clear that I’m more comfortable talking about this stuff online, which may be the case. I certainly talk about my writing, and my opinions on books, on my blog far more than I do with my family. Maybe the fact that you’re talking to people who are complete strangers (if anyone reads it at all…which they probably don’t), not people who you have to face in person? I think I’m a writer for the same reason–those words are rarely, if ever, seen by others, and that gives me the confidence to write about what I want.

    Sorry for the horrifically long, boring comment. All that had to be said….

  5. I empathize with this post so much. I was a homeschooler turned stay at home writer, and only this year pushed myself to finally apply to college and MAKE myself get out there — it’s so easy to stay in a tightly wound ball at home, but, like you said, if I want to be a touring author who does panels and book signings and all the rest one day, I definitely need sociability and “being able to hold a conversation with a stranger without running away” in my wheelhouse. So! I hope this new church and young adult group works out for you — everything’s scary until it’s not. (That’s my working theory, at least.)

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