If you’re a shy writer, you should know that shyness is who you are, as much a part of you as eye color and lobed ears. Learn to incorporate it into your writing world. Learn how to recognize your limitations and your abilities and define your ills and your cures.
Try these suggestions:
+ Take a class. While Toastmasters is a common and still marvelous suggestion for public speaking phobias, taking any class has a similar effect. Sitting amid students warms you up to public settings.
+ Dry off sweaty hands. If you worry about your hands being clammy and damp, wear clothes with loose pockets. Nonchalantly stick your hand in your pocket and dry it off on a handkerchief, tissue, or the cloth itself.
+ Carry a drink. In social settings most people have a drink. Sipping on a beverage not only wets your whistle but also soothes your nerves. And the moisture on your throat makes your voice steady.
+ Deep breaths. You may think it’s only a psychological tool to take deep breaths, but it is also a physiological exercise. The added oxygen stimulates your brain and slows your blood pressure. It also flows over your vocal cords, warming them and regulating a voice that might be a bit squeaky from fear of use.
+ Shaky hands. Hold something like a drink, a pen, a book, business cards, or a purse.
+ The bathroom break. Know the bathroom location and, if feeling stressed, visit it to breathe and calm down with cool water. Smile at yourself in the mirror. Comb your hair or put on a new coat of lipstick.
+ De-stress. After a function, find a way to decompress. Some may dive for the bed or recliner. Vocalizing a really big scream is a true exercise in stress relief for some. Please do this outside or in your car with the windows rolled up to avoid alarming others!
+ Find a mentor. Locate a confidante who can talk or walk you through social interactions. Finding a mentor can tear down emotional walls for you and build confidence. Having your mentor in the audience might be the ticket to help you perform admirably. Mentors are marvelous tools in all avenues of life.
+ Join a group. Find a writers group, church group, theatre group, any kind of group with committees. Sign up for one of the committees. The interaction is practice in people skills. No one says you have to lead it or even hold a key position. Just be a player.
+ Hire a partner in crime. Find a speaker who covers a subject similar to your writing. Give him a percentage of your proceeds and ask him to incorporate your work into his presentation. Sit in the back of the room, bow when introduced, and voila! You have made a public appearance.
+ Sit on a panel. Can’t face the room alone? Agree to panels or group arrangements. Conferences love using panels of authors, publishers, editors and agents. Receive the publicity with a fraction of the spotlight.
+ Request a podium. That box of wood or little metal stand somehow empowers you. A podium might not be much between you and “them” but it might be enough to relieve some jitters, allow room to spread your notes, and provide a mental buffer zone.
+ Phone callers. Scared to call the radio station, bookstore manager or gift shop owner? Get your “assistant” to do it for you. Find an intelligent, extroverted friend or relative and use her as your own public relations assistant. Just make sure this special person knows your work and can reliably schedule and coordinate.
+ Phone call pitches. So, you have no assistant. Write down your points in advance, ask for the right person, give your brief, well-designed pitch and make a specific request. “Could you stock five copies of my book? May I schedule a book signing in September?” Get to the point and ask a direct question that commands an answer.
+ Tell people you are nervous. When you verbally stumble, laugh it off and tell people you are jittery. They will commend you for facing them in spite of your shyness, and you will no longer be hiding your fear. Cindy Daniel, author of Death Warmed Over (Quiet Storm Publishing), says, “I’m always very nervous to speak in public. I usually end up coughing and getting a dry throat so I have to pop a cough drop. I always explain to the audience I know it’s rude to have something in my mouth and offer them one, too.”
+ Blushing. You get embarrassed, blush, and then blush that you blushed. Relax. Drop your shoulders and release your muscles all over. Let that belly flop, too. It makes you feel looser. Admit you blush! When it happens, own up to it, and it passes more quickly. Even consider mentioning the tendency to your audience. “There I go blushing again!” It makes you one of the common folk and moves you off that pedestal.
Shyness is a hassle sometimes, but it can be quite charming as well. Shy people are deep thinkers. Consider yourself one of the intelligent lot and commend yourself for being so in tune and in touch with your inner self, your creative self, your writing self. As a shy writer, just remember to “sell your words, not your soul.” Be yourself. Your readers will appreciate it.
C. Hope Clark is a full-time “shy” freelance writer with recent bylines in The Writer, Writer’s Digest and ByLine Magazine. She is also founder of FundsforWriters.com, a service for writers. THE SHY WRITER is her new release, in paperback and ebook form, available at: http://www.writersweekly.com/books/1746.html