An Introvert’s Purgatory

Hands trembling. Stomach clenched. Mouth dry.

Any minute now, it will be my turn. I’m about to read an excerpt from my soon-to-be-released debut book to a roomful of people who have already had ninety minutes to stoke themselves with alcohol.

Will they like it? Will the group of people carrying on a conversation in the back of the room drown out my voice (microphone not withstanding)? Will I talk too fast? Will my voice escalate into Minnie Mouse range as it used to do whenever nerves attacked?

ejr_oct_2013Ack! Where’s the safety of my writing cave? The comfortable anonymity (and chance to edit) of online interaction? Of all the aspects of the writing life that have the potential to scare the pants off me, face-to-face interaction in which I have to present myself as the expert on my own work (which you’d think I’d know better than anyone) is at the top of the hysteria-inducing list. The first time I sat down to a pitch with an agent, I managed to spill her coffee all over the table, a concrete metaphor for how I felt about the whole thing.

Tonight, though, before I step up to the mike, I get a lovely introduction from my multi-published author friend.

Dang it! Now I can’t possibly let her down!

I thank her. Stumble through the set-up for the scene I’m about to read (damn, I really should have written that up better). But when I start to read, the same thing happens that always happened in my days as an actor.

Tunnel vision.

Most of audience fades away, reduced to one or two faces I focus on as anchors for my character voices. Sure, the conversation at the back never stops, but at least some people pay attention, laughing at the right places, and the familiarity of the words, read countless times in the last weeks of revisions, edits, copyedits, and galley proofs, propels me onward.

The end! Applause! Only polite? Maybe. It doesn’t matter. I made it through. I’m no longer an author-reader virgin. I give myself a puny mental high-five as I make way for the next author, because I’ve conquered one of my greatest fears.

Well, perhaps not conquered, precisely. I’m sure stage fright will tackle me next time – and in spite of the fear, I sincerely hope there will be a next time! But knowing I made it through at least once without a major meltdown gives my introvert soul at least a teensy self-confidence boost.

Now…where’s that wine?

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Posted on October 28, 2013, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 24 Comments.

  1. Yay, you! So proud of you for facing that fear! Now go do it again. And again. And again. Until you’re a natural! 🙂 P.S. You might have to give me the same kind of encouragement, Ellen!

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    • Absolutely! Do you prefer the “stand in the back and flash the occasional thumbs-up” method, or the “lurk at the side and whisper random inspirational remarks” technique?

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      • How about you pretend to be me and I’ll go back to my cave and write? LOL. Seriously, it might have to be a combo of both plus a shove. Just thought you should be warned. . .. 🙂

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  2. I’ll be your bodyguard. And your bartender.

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  3. I dunno. The real world stuff never got easier for me. So I stopped doing it. Instead, I send author-me to do the appearances. Nobody wants to see writer-me anyway, trust me 😉

    I love that picture! You perfectly captured the terror in your smize 🙂

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  4. Congratulations, Ellen! The first time is always a mixture of pain, excitement, and relief. But the more you do it, it can become addictive.

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  5. Encore, encore!! Heh!

    I understand completely the FEAR, but you did it. I agree with the comment about wine. It can give a bit of freedom, although in my case, I’d probably go off script and sing.

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  6. I find wine helpful when conquring any fear. And chocolate. Love the picture! 🙂

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  7. My introvert heart pounded in sympathy as I read this. Sounds like you did great Ellen. Kudos for not letting fear hold you back.

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  8. Yikes. i hate public speaking too. People always say to imagine them naked…. What an odd suggestion that our society continues to give out as advice and yet I have never heard of someone saying that it worked for them?!??

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  9. Always best to leave the writing cave in a group situation. Makes it so much easier to take those first steps. Congratulations on finding the courage to get up there and do it.

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    • Oh, yes. A posse is the perfect accessory, especially one that pokes you in the back with the virtual barge-pole and refuses to let you back down!

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      • I want “in” on the EJ Posse!!!

        Trust me when I say that it does get easier with practice. I was once extremely shy….I didn’t utter a word until I was four years old – literally, my parents took me to the doctor to make sure my vocal chords worked properly. I forced myself to take a retail job in high school, so that I could learn how to strike up a conversation with anyone. Well – it worked….I guess… 😀

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      • Yes, Cheryl, it most definitely worked!

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