I remember you.

I remember the first daydreams of a career in publishing dancing in your head.

You imagine yourself in a dedicated home office, filled with cushy chairs and towering bookcases, marking up a manuscript with red pen into the late hours of the night. You’ll naturally check in occasionally with coworkers and engage in thoughtful discussion with your authors, but primarily you expect to work alone, with an endless supply of stories, brimming with insight and confidence, never needing to second-guess your instincts.

Now, if you really examine this daydream, the cracks should appear almost immediately. How are you going to afford a flat with enough space for a home office? When was the last time you purchased a red pen? And when have you ever been able to resist the urge to second-guess yourself?

But the biggest difference between that image in your head and the reality of the industry, in my experience so far, has been how social the world of publishing is. And these days, ‘social’ is inextricably linked with ‘social media’. For someone like us, for whom the latter has always been a source of stress, the ceaseless digital engagement has been extremely intimidating. I see my peers with their book blogs and YouTube channels, their established social media presences already intertwined with the industry, and quite frankly, I begin to despair that I’ll ever be able to catch up.

What’s more, while I generally fancied myself adept at making small talk and positive first impressions at conferences and social events before the pandemic (I won’t go into that now, but trust me when I say 2020 is going to be a doozy), online social networking doesn’t come nearly as naturally. Attending the recent Society of Young Publishers conference, Ctrl Alt Refresh, I was intrigued by the prospect of virtual networking . . . until the moment arrived, and I found myself staring nervously at the #SYPChat, unable to think of a single thing to say. As it turns out, it takes a different skillset to network via Twitter rather than milling about crudités, one with a very public learning curve.

These challenges have left me feeling uncertain about my place in the digital landscape of the industry and more than a little silly for not anticipating them sooner. Will I grow more comfortable with social media in time, or will I find a way to participate in the industry that doesn’t require a strong Twitter presence? I find myself wondering what it would have been like to join the industry before the pandemic. Would an online presence have been less necessary, or would its importance merely have been less obvious?

I have more questions than answers to offer you, but for all the aspects of this journey that have been unexpected, there is something that your daydreams of joining the publishing industry were spot on about—how much you’ll love it. I have worked late into the night on more that one occasion, utilizing Tracked Changes on Word rather than a red pen, humming with the excitement of being part of a creative process that means so much to so many people. I have loved being part of a community that loves stories as much as I do, where there are so many bright, kind people with important ideas and a knack for wordplay. The fears I have surrounding my place in the digital landscape are offset by my delight in finding such a vibrant, passionate community, one that has been remarkably adaptive during the global pandemic.

So, stay the course, even when you feel like a fish out of water. I’ve met incredible people, found joy in collaborating with authors and fellow students, and I’m more certain than ever that this is work worth doing.