Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Don't Ask Me (Holly Schindler)


In a way, I feel like I’m the absolute worst person to give public speaking advice. In the first place, I was the shyest kid on the planet growing up. I used to cry at the thought of talking to other kids when my parents took me to the playground. 

I have always been more introverted, and I will never, never, never relish public speaking. I will, for the most part, always dread it. 

And it’s not just the shyness. I think most writers are actually revisionists by nature. I happen to love the revision process far more than the drafting—but even if you do love the drafting more, there’s just something wonderful (or at least comforting) about the non-permanence of a draft. Of knowing that you have a chance to get in there and tinker with it. 

I think that’s what makes so many authors cringe at the idea of a public performance. There’s no delete key for it. You can’t tinker with it. 

In many ways, it really does feel like hanging a rough draft out for public consumption. 

And it does not in any way have to be a performance in front of a large library group, either. Some of the most frightening “performances” can be the one-on-one sort. In the beginning of my writing career, I would quake in fear at the idea of a call from an agent or editor. The night before a scheduled call, I wouldn’t be able to sleep. 

But something started to happen, over time:

I found myself picking up the phone to call my agent cold, when I needed something. I suggested conference calls with editors to hash out ideas for a book in development. I started Skyping with reader groups. Tons of them—all over the country. Doing in-person and radio interviews…

It’s not Madison Square Garden by any stretch of the imagination. But it’s funny how those things I mentioned in the previous paragraph don’t even bother me anymore. Does the fear subside with exposure? Is it that you’re more likely to forget your fears when you’re going after something you really want? Do we become more confident with ourselves the longer we’re in the industry?
Maybe it’s all those things.
I do not in any way have the key to success with public speaking. I only suspect that it, like the path to publication, depends on the much of the same: persistence, persistence, persistence. And never letting a little bit of fear keep you from a great big dream.

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