Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Writer Terrors

Writers are a unique lot, and each one different from another.  I was reading a post at LinkedIn this morning where writers were discussing what the dominant personality of a writer is.  The discussion rambled off in several directions coming up with all sorts of answers which, of course, pinpoints the problem in defining authors/writers. There is something a little bit different about us, it's true, but exactly what IS it? 


Here's the thing.  On the page we can be quite firm, even downright aggressive, but in person it's a different matter.  While a writer might do wonderfully one-on-one, a real chatterbox, many times in a crowd that fizzles fast. Withdrawn comes to mind.

Writers are often tapped to give talks or perhaps lead a workshop or read from their work.  Well, for the introverted writer, and that seems to be the dominant paradigm, that can most definitely lead to nervousness or the possibility of a outright  nervous breakdown. The writer does war with the fact that he or she really doesn't want to do any public appearances at all, and yet the publisher wants those appearances to happen or the writer simply realizes that in order to publicize a book and get readers, promotion, which means public appearances, is a must.

So, today, I want to give some friendly advice to those introverted, nervous-breakdown-prone brother and sister writers out there.  If you're sitting in a chair, chewing your nails, sweating and feeling like your heart is pounding against your ribs and you desperately want a drink of water, but are afraid to have it because you just know you'll need the bathroom about the time you step in front of all those people, waiting to give a talk or lead that workshop, or give that reading, (whew that was a mouthful) here's a thought. 

What do you think is going to happen?  I mean seriously, what do you expect to happen?

These are people interested in what you have to say, there is no right or wrong. They wouldn't be here if they weren't interested. Do you really think one or more of them is suddenly going to be possessed by the 'exorcist', have his head spin around and spout fire from eyes nose & mouth? And you can always use the ancient trick of thinking of them as naked. Head-spinning, fire-spouting naked, so they're no threat.

Godzilla isn't going to bound through the door and squish you to paste on the stage either. King Kong isn't going to break his restraints and come charging through your hall. You aren't going to die. Barring natural disaster such as earthquake, volcano or flood you're going to be fine. Right?

So, it's all good, right?

You can actually take a breath and do what you need to do, make that public appearance. And you know what?  You can, in fact, have fun with it. I'm not saying you're GOING TO, I said you CAN.  And it may take several appearance for you to sort it all out, relax enough and enjoy yourself.

Engage the people in your audience and you'll end up having fun - or at the very least feeling more composed and less shaky. So here's how to get started.

Be honest with your audience when you first arrive. Tell them you're nervous to the point of sweating through your clothes.  Most people shy away from public speaking - they'll understand and be even more empathetic.  

Ask them to shout out if  you're muttering a bit and ask you to speak up. You might offer a short Q & A segment the beginning of your talk, in addition to one at the end. Relate to your audience as new friends and speaking will not only get easier, but might turn into something you enjoy.


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