Compulsory Sociality

New for your vocabulary: compulsory sociality.  We had a guest speaker in my first class on Friday (Contemporary Issues and The Creative Economy). While our guest speaker Kate was talking, she dropped this term that I had never heard before, but made absolute sense. It really goes back to the saying: It’s not what you know; it’s who you know. In order to be successful you have to be where others are who are successful at doing what you want to do…even if you don’t want to hang out with these people.

This particular term was of interest to me because it automatically means that certain professions and certain personality types are going to have a much harder time getting on with their chosen occupations than others. Some notables that she mentioned are introverts, shy people, and people who don’t drink. I also happen to know that certain types of writing careers lend themselves to a life of solitude the main two being novelists and poets.

So, I’m a novelist. I also happen to be a little shy, an introvert/extrovert, and I don’t drink. I’m doomed.

One of the reasons I felt compelled to go back to school and get my masters was because I missed the camaraderie of being around other writers. There’s nothing like throwing story ideas around with other writers. They have no problem telling you when an idea is good and when it’s crap and why. It is a quality I’ve not found in others. In school, it’s easy to find other writers. Outside of school, it’s nearly impossible.

Every year there are literally hundreds of thousands of books published in English alone. With the popularity of e-publishing that number is bound to skyrocket. Yet for all of the writers out there, finding a community of them has proven extremely difficult. It’s kind of like everyone writes, but no one knows any writers.

This separation creates a much bigger issue. No one knows anyone in the writing industry. Editors, publishers, journals all of these people have to hang out somewhere. But no one knows where and most novelists are too busy raising the word count to look for them. Then what do we do? How do people in a solitary profession ever get their work past the starting line?

A couple of weeks ago I was doing research on something called a book fair. Turns out that they are not for the regular reader as I had thought. This is actually where writers and those they want to employ them, come together. So, if you’re a writer or you’re in the industry looking for new talent, this is the place to go.

Enter compulsory socialization. If you want to become a part of the literary industry in any capacity, you will eventually find yourself here. If you don’t, then success will be a little harder for you to come by. Not impossible, just a little more difficult. For my purposes, I have found attempting to communicate with people via electronic means to be, um, less than successful.

What this means is that, if I’m to make a living by noveling, I have to be at a few book fairs and meet people who can help me. The few downfalls with this plan are, I’m shy, I’m an introvert/extrovert, and I don’t drink. The drinking really is far less of an issue than the other two.

I’ve noticed that when someone walks up to another person or groups of people and says hello, that person needs to have something to say immediately behind that. I usually can’t think of anything to say. So, I don’t say anything. I could write somethings. We could have a conversation on paper. Otherwise, I’m stuck.

Sadly, even while I know the importance of going out and meeting people doing what I want to do, I still find it difficult to navigate socially with any group of strangers whose number is greater than one. Again, I’m doomed.

In April London will host its annual London Book Fair. I’m really excited about going. I really hope I get a chance to talk to people who make a living in the industry. However, If every table I go to has more than one person sitting behind it, I don’t know what I’m going to do.


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