By Patricia Guy
One of the things I had feared about working from home is a tendency toward isolation. I have a strong hermit streak in me, and although it is a good thing that I enjoy being alone, I am learning that it is important to stay actively engaged in the community around me.
Like many “creatives,” when I am in the midst of a creative project or process, I can become so absorbed in what I am creating that it takes awhile to notice how long it has been since I have “come up for air” and engaged in the world around me. This ability to focus so intently is one of my gifts, and I am now seeing that it requires balance.
I have repeatedly heard that it is good business practice to engage in networking opportunities, both online and in the world around us. I began to accept the notion that I needed to stretch out of my comfort zone and put myself in situations where I can meet people I would not normally meet in my everyday life.
As a young person I was very shy, so when I first learned about the importance of networking, I shuddered. If this is what it takes to get to the next level, I was concerned that my inability to “meet and greet” would be a stumbling block. I tried attending women in business networking meetings, and it felt like to me a situation where everyone is selling, and no one is buying. I saw many people giving their elevator speeches and handing out their business cards, but not much in the way of real connection or real listening. I wasn’t very good at this kind of networking, and I knew it (very uncomfortable).
If regular networking events are not your thing — here's how to activate community engagement with a shy personality.
I tried volunteering to be a “greeter” at the door of one of these networking meetings. That felt much better. I could focus on welcoming others, making good eye contact in such a way that the other person could feel seen, and genuinely cultivating an interest in who would be walking in the door next. Later in that meeting, I met one or two women that I have since stayed in contact with.
Interests and Hobbies:
Next, I tried looking at what interests me and volunteering in those areas of interest. I found that it was easier for me to meet people when we were working together on something side by side. So much energy is required in the start-up phase of a home business, I found it was better to sign up for volunteer opportunities that were of a “one-time event” nature or where I did not have an ongoing crucial role so that there could be flexibility in my involvement. I also joined a board where the board members are scattered around the country and in Canada, and learned what it is like to participate in phone conferences online and to participate in virtual community work.
The Cyber World is Not Enough:
A graphic artist I met at a meeting of artists talked about the importance of community engagement in the cyber world as well. He said that it isn’t enough to put out a website or a blog and hope that people will come. It is important to get out there and see what other people are creating, comment on what you see, and invite them to comment on your work.
I have been undoing the image lately of the starving artist alone in their garret, sacrificing everything for their art. What I see now is that the starving artist is the isolated artist. A thriving artist is one who is actively engaged in the world around them, cultivates good relationships, and participates in a larger community. I am no longer afraid of becoming isolated and alone. I am learning, one step at a time, to come out of my garret and become more fully engaged in the world around me. That engagement is becoming a dance, a dialogue, with good mutual exchange and true nourishment.
Need more networking tips for introverts? Be sure to check out these networking posts!
Patricia Guy is a visionary folk artist interested in how color and pattern can stimulate, excite and soothe the brain, especially when the brain is fatigued. Having explored the folk art of various cultures, she believes one of the roles of an artist is to show what is possible and to express that which has no name. Patricia enjoys art as a form of meditation and sharing her Joy through her artwork. Born in Ft. Worth, Texas, Patricia Guy received her BFA in Theater at the University of Texas at Austin. Her interest in sacred theater, folk theater, and dance led her to study at Le Centre du Silence Mime School with Samuel Avital in Boulder Colorado, which led to experiences in the mountains with medicine wheels, mandalas, and studying Cherokee sacred studies with Dhyani Ywahoo in Vermont. After a career with Austin Parks and Recreation Department, Patricia is taking time to explore and share her art again. For more information on Patricia see her website or blog.