• Julie Luek
  • [Making the Leap] Can I NOT Have Your Attention, Please?
[Making the Leap] Can I NOT Have Your Attention, Please?
Written by
Julie Luek
December 2013
Written by
Julie Luek
December 2013

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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  • Bobbi Carducci

    Ah, the intorverted writer finds herslef in a crowd, I know the scenario well.  The very characteristics that contirbute to our writing are the same ones that make it hard for us to talk about what we do. We are what I call the quiet observers of the world. We stay in the background, even when it seems we are mingling with everyone else, and take in the sights, scents, scenery and feelings all around us. We notice quirks and foibles and unconsciously file them away for future use.  Then we repair to our writing dens, process it all, and begin to write. We write with the intention of having it read but still recoil when someone wants to read it. We are a weird and wonderful lot, aren't we? 

    Many of my friends and fellow writers have a hard time beleiving I am a raging introvert. In gorups of people I don't know I still have the tendency to be a wallflower. I'm in observer mode afterall. But, I now teach writing workshops, speak at conferences, and lead a local writers group.  How?  The first time I had to speak to a group I asked for a chair becasue I knew I'd be shaking too hard to stand.  It was a disaster. I shook anyway. When that didn't work, I wrote myself a part and assumed the character of a confident person. It tool time but it worked. I still shake at times but I've become a good faker.  When it comes to talking about your book, sit down and write a very short blurb for yourself. "I'm working on a piece rright now that's not quite ready to meet the world." Or, I'd love to tell you about it when it's further along but right now I'm still refining it." 

    That should do it. If it doesn't, go for more wine. I'll see you at the bar. :)

  • Cynthia Close

    Julie, Great post, and the photos that came with it! I'm a split personality when it comes to writing. For my commissioned/paid work; film reviews, book reviews and exhibition reviews for two magazines, I'm more in the mindset of Karoline, who commented below. However, when it comes to my "personal" writing, creative non-fiction, memoir, etc... I am in a confused state of unknowing...and think "how dare I pretend to be a writer"...

  • Olga Godim

    Great post, Julie. Everything is so familiar - we must be long-lost twins! You should definitely pursue the invitation from the library. I had a book launch at the local library a couple months ago, for my first novel. It was fun, although it felt strange and a bit scary to have the attention of the entire room on myself. But library patrons are usually nice people. They like books and writers - they will love you.

  • Julie Luek

    Jenny-- Ahh glad to know I'm not the only one, and I think you stated my struggle well-- "without sounding too apologetic or worse, like I'm on some misguided sales pitch!" That states it well. Nothing has come of the invitation, which means I should probably more actively pursue it. Maybe after the first of the year. 

  • Julie Luek

    Karoline-- First, a big congratulations on your book. And all of She Writes cheers for you! I need to catch your self-promotion fire a bit and let it rub off on me. I truly struggle with it and yet, as I mentioned, fully acknowledge how important it is. May your book soar to success!

  • Karoline Barrett

    I loved your post. I'd have the same problem you have if the subject were math, but my first novel came out December 9th and I find myself carrying an Advanced Readers Copy in my purse in case the subject of book writing comes up! I also carry my author post cards with me to hand out.  I confess I love talking about writing and my book because I feel like I'm in my element. Plus I need to get people to buy it. I am amazed, however, at the number of people that are "whatever" about me actually writing a book.  I've heard other writers say the same, so if that had happened to me, I'd have lapped it up!

  • Julie Luek

    Lisa, I'm so glad we're in this together then. I don't always do well verbally anyway (I hate phones), but put me in an unexpected spotlight and apparently, I tap into my inner junior high insecurities. ;)

  • Lisa Hamer

    Oh, Julie, you are so funny.  I think I would have panicked being put on the spot, too.  But a rider needs to be able to "pimp" herself, don't you think?  I guess that is something I need to work on, too.  I'm fine in the blogging/online sphere, but put me with a group of people and I don't want to talk about what I've written.  We are two peas in a pod, I think.