Talking about Your Book: How I Found my Confidence
Recently, I’ve written about various author events you might encounter. For some authors speaking in public or to new people is no big deal; it might even be enjoyable. For others, this is terrifying. I used to be one of those petrified people. In high school, I was so shy, I wouldn’t even look at people I felt uncomfortable around, so I want to share how I overcame my shyness and learned to be comfortable and confident at readings, release parties, writers conferences, and other gatherings.
You Have to Decide to Change
The biggest thing I did to overcome my shyness was to make the decision to change. I know that sounds simple, but it’s difficult in practice. I decided I no longer wanted to be afraid of people. I wanted to connect with them, to build friendships, to have more fun, so I made a conscious decision to not be so shy.
My roommate at the time was also battling shyness. When January arrived, we made our first New Year’s Resolution: to be BOLD. To us being bold meant going after what we wanted. It meant saying yes to invitations, events, and experiences we’d always wanted to do, but never had the guts or confidence to embrace. For one year, we were each other’s accountability partner and support.
And it worked. After the year was up, we both felt more comfortable talking to new people and saying yes to new experiences. We were no longer held back by the fear associated with our shyness.
If you struggle with shyness and no longer want to be shy, you must decide to change. If you don’t, you can read all the self-help books, blogs, and tips in the world and not experience change. Internalize that choice. After you make that decision, find a friend willing to help you. This friend can be shy or not, but they should encourage you to face your people fears – gently or aggressively depending on your needs. Your decision and support person will give you the best shot at building the confidence needed to effectively talk about your book and yourself at author events.
Confidence Is Practice and Persistence
It’s natural to feel insecure when something changes in your life, but that shouldn’t stop you from growing and living. My shyness was holding me back from enjoying life and forging meaningful relationships. After I made the decision to change, I wasn’t suddenly unafraid. However, I knew I had to interact with people anyway.
I did this by talking to one new person a day. As a college student, that was easy. I could chat with someone in the lunch line or waiting to go into a classroom. If I were to do this now, I might try to talk to one new person a week because I’m not around as many new people any more. These started out as short exchanges with lots of blushing, sweaty palms, and jittery insides, but it got easier. By the time the year was up, I felt more comfortable – not completely – talking to new people, especially at parties and social events, places I’d never felt remotely comfortable before. Eventually, my comfort lead to confidence in my ability to interact and connect with people.
When I became an editor, author, and business owner, a bit of my shyness returned. Networking with colleagues, clients, and fans is different than chatting with someone at a purely social gathering, so I took a class on small talk. Two tips I internalized were to psyche myself up for meeting new people on my way to the event and to decide to have a conversation with three (or whatever number suits the event) new people. After those three, I am done and can enjoy the event and reconnect with people I already know.
If you have a difficult time in networking situations, I recommend trying those two tips and looking into a community class. The course I took was The Fine Art of Small Talk by Debra Fine at Colorado Free University, and there is a book version if you’re interested. But most importantly keep at it. Change is difficult. If you want to get over your shyness, you have it challenge it. You have to practice being BOLD.
You Must Believe in Your Writing
How you feel about your work seeps into the way you speak about it. Even if you’ve rehearsed your pitch, reading, or speech a hundred times, your body language and tone will betray your true feelings. You must believe your writing is great and worth reading. Technically, this means presenting a polished piece to the world, but emotionally, this means believing in yourself and being proud of your work.
My brother and I were raised to be humble. A synonym of humble is shy. We both are in the process of learning how to talk about our art in a way that reveals our pride and belief in its quality without sounding or feeling like bragging. We have to talk about our work with confidence.
When you read from your book or speak about your writing, think about one aspect you did really well. Is there a character you’re in love with? Are you reading a bit of dialogue you’re particularly proud of? Is there one line that makes you smile every time you think of it? Focus on that component. Take a breath and remind yourself of that piece of your writing, then start reading or talking. This helps me feel more confident when I talk about or read my work.
Why an Editor Shares Her Shy Past
I wanted to share how I’ve battled through shyness to build my confidence in order to help other authors do the same. It kills me when I see authors stumble through a description of their book or reading because they’re afraid, especially when I know their writing is amazing. Also, as an author you are a business owner. That means networking with writing industry professionals and connecting with fans are key to your book’s success. Plus, it sucks to be afraid. So make the decision to be BOLD, find a support person, and practice until you feel confident in yourself and your writing to Ignite Your Ink.
What makes you feel shy or afraid and how might you overcome these fears? Share your experience in the comments below. For a free Timeline of Your Book and more tips on sharing your writing with the world, subscribe to Ignite Your Ink.
Ignite Your Ink is written by editor and author Caitlin Berve. She holds a MFA in Creative Writing and Poetics, actively participates in multiple writers’ organizations, and is dedicated to helping writers produce content that leaves an impression on readers.