[Making the Leap] Can I NOT Have Your Attention, Please?

I’m awkward in groups. When faced with a crowd of people I don’t know well or a situation outside my familiar comfort zone, I get all squirmy inside. I truly am an introvert.

So the other day, while at a welcome-home get-together for a friend and her partner who have been wandering the world (you can follow their adventures here), I was wading deep in the muck of my discomfort. I gulped wine hoping it would work its soothing magic and loosen my mental and verbal constipation so I could converse beyond monosyllabic grunts.

A slight drizzle started to fall, and I sought shelter beneath a tent along with a dozen other people. I knew most of them to some extent; they were former colleagues at the university where I had worked. But there were several I didn't know. Suddenly, someone (I don’t even remember who) brought up the fact that I’m writing these days. You know how this goes. People, usually those who have no idea what it’s really like to be a writer, look at you differently and possibly act impressed. “Oh that’s so cool… I’ve always wanted to be a writer…. What’s that like?” And my favorite, “What have you written?”

By now I was cringing and sweating a bit. Everyone was looking at me. “It’s a lot of fun,” I said, “if you don’t mind not making a living.” Everyone laughed.

No really, I wanted to reiterate, that’s the God’s honest truth.

I told them I contribute to a couple of sites and write a couple of blogs, publish here and there and hope to eventually work on a bigger project. I hoped my vague answer would soothe their curiosity and we could move the spotlight on to someone else, like the woman standing beside me in whose honor this party was being held.

But no.

Someone whipped out their smart phone and asked for my blog address. Oh my gosh, I felt a coronary malfunction coming on. But they all stared at me expectantly. I muttered the address and the person holding their phone pulled up my blog. I briefly wondered how far I could punt the little gadget. These people are college professors, for heaven’s sake. I felt the bile rise. Then, the most horrid thing of all happened: the phone owner started to read an entry aloud.

This must be stopped. “No, no, don’t read it aloud here,” I pleaded, and fortunately they had mercy on me and quit.

What? Why did they stop so readily? Did they realize how awful it was? Did it sound really stupid?

Apparently I can’t be appeased.

But as I stood there, praying to God and any divinity persona that gave a crap, that the weather would ease up and release me, I started thinking about how I really need to be more assertive and confident, how I should be able to talk about my work, and that this was really an opportunity to expand my audience, perhaps find new readers.

The librarian at the university looked at me and asked, “Julie, would you like to give a talk and maybe do some readings for our Friends of the Library event sometime?”  I wanted to throw up again. Good heavens, that’s for real writers, not someone like me.

“Sure,” I said hoping my words didn't sound like the dry grit they felt like in my mouth. “I’d be honored.”

I really must do something about that blurting, freak personality inside me.

So how do you handle the on-the-spot conversation about your book or your unfinished manuscript? Do you look forward to opportunities to talk about your writing, or like me, do you grab for the wine and hope no one notices the slurring?

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Tags: confidence, writing

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Comment by Julie Luek on December 19, 2013 at 2:09pm

I agree- the comments have been wonderful! So helpful. 

Comment by Dana Alexander on December 19, 2013 at 2:05pm

Thanks, Julie.  Very glad you put this post out.  So many of us experience such things and it's great to have the comments come together on this topic.

Comment by Julie Luek on December 19, 2013 at 2:02pm

Hi Dana-- great thoughts. I like your perspective. 

Comment by Dana Alexander on December 19, 2013 at 1:57pm

Great post, Julie.

I too, like so many others, have been in that awkward situation primarily because I've always defined myself by the work I do rather than the writing.  But it's the writing I'm most passionate about. I've found if I'm asked about my writing and provide some details, rather than pulling back into the comfy quiet zone, the response is well-received and there is a sincere interest by most. At times, I'll even get the encouragement to follow that passion more vigorously.  This has given me the push I needed to drop the apprehension of discussing my series and the confidence to speak about it.

  I've put a bucket load of creative effort and time into work I love and am satisfied with to put out to the public (soon). And with any luck, that work will provide a story good enough for someone else to read and love as well. I don't care about the money, but that it's a good piece of work that is well-written and delivers on what the reader wants to escape to.  If the audience I'm answering doesn't get that (and I don't expect them to) but does see the passion we writers have for our stories, that's just one more item to help me forge ahead.

P.S. Like your comment Veronica  :)

Comment by Julie Luek on December 16, 2013 at 6:18am

Nancy-- I am in process of identifying and developing that "rope" you speak about-- the why and purpose of my writing. I can see how knowing and naming that could really put you at ease and give you a handle in conversation. Congratulations on all you are doing. 

Comment by Nancy G. Shapiro on December 15, 2013 at 3:53pm

Hi Julie. As a fellow introvert, your blog made me shake/quake with recognition. I've finally come to a steadier, less freaked-out conversational stance about my writing by writing to myself about the "why" of my writing, all of it—my blog, poems, the e-book Brooke Warner urged me to publish in September, and the perpetually-in-progress "larger work" that the e-book comes from. My "why" is a thread that runs through everything I write, and that thread has turned into a nice thick rope that supports me when someone "Oh you're writing a book! What's it about?" 

Comment by Julie Luek on December 14, 2013 at 4:27pm

Hi Marie-- thanks for the encouragement. Maybe we will both heed some of the great advice in the comments and be more bold, courageous and confident about our writing! I'm glad your heart understands, though. 

Comment by Marie Bailey on December 14, 2013 at 4:06pm

I am such an introvert that I probably would have slinked away from the party before anyone noticed me :)  Even with close friends, I get tongue-tied when talking about my writing.  When it's just between me and my blog and my online friends, I'm fine.  I can write up a storm about my writing.  But face-to-face encounters leave me speechless.  And if I manage to say something intelligent, I then see that glazed-over look in their eyes ... or at least I think I see it and then I just clam up.  I do not look forward to marketing my work ... beyond writing about it, that is :)

By the way, your post was so fun to read and I hope you do give some readings and talks.  It's a spotlight you shouldn't pass up.

Comment by Julie Luek on December 14, 2013 at 2:14pm

Andrea-- by golly, I think you're on to something! 

Comment by Andrea Miles on December 14, 2013 at 1:40pm

I really hate talking about myself - I think I got 0 extrovert impulses and 100 introvert - so I will really struggle with having to sell my book when the time comes. In fact, I kind a wish I could just hire someone to be the public me!

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