by Peggy Bechko
Okay, writers, listen up. Pretty prevalent amongst us is shyness and even out and out fear of success.
How, you ask can this be possible? If we’re writing with the aim of having a script produced or a novel published how can it be that we actually fear that which we strive for?
This is a deep psychological subject on which many articles have been written. So we’ll skip the discussion on whether it exists, it does. Look inside yourself and I’ll bet you spot at least some degree of it as it seems that there’s something about the writing life that attracts just this kind of people. You know, like you and me.
I was terribly shy when I started out, first book published by Doubleday when I was 21. Just wanted to hide with my typewriter and write books. What do you mean I need to make appearances and give interviews? Ahhhhhhh! And that’s just the shyness part. I’ll get back to that in a minute.
The fear of success part is even harder. How do you know you have it? Do you throw up roadblocks when opportunity comes knocking? Lots of reasons why you can’t do something? Are you unwilling to work with people to edit a script or manuscript in order to get it accepted because you just can’t change a word? Do you avoid change like it’s somehow going to scar you for life? Do you feel unworthy, like you can’t possibly be good enough to make it in the big leagues? That the decision makers couldn’t possibly like your stuff enough to take it on – despite the fact that you’re writing and working for exactly that goal?
Okay this is where we circle back to the shyness that is frequently coupled with this problem and can result in taking you down some very bad roads. You can go get some professional help if it’s severe, or you can try some little tricks first and see how that goes.
The first one for me was a helpful talk with my grandfather. After I told him the problem he smiled at me and said, “So what are they going to do? What’s the worst case scenario? They’ll say no? They already say that and you keep writing. So what’s the problem? Keep doing it until they say yes.”
As for giving a talk at a library or a bookstore his comment was, “What do you think will happen? They’ll throw rotten tomatoes at you in a bookstore? Not likely. They’ll probably just want to ask questions.” God bless you Grandpa.
Wow, a light went on. I started seriously considering this shy thing from all angles. What WAS the worst that was going to happen? Yes, there can be snarky, nasty people occasionally at these events, but being polite to them and/ignoring them takes care of it. And so what if someone calls you an idiot or some such. You’re not. You’re a writer. Yes, it can sting, but you get over it. Really, you do.
As for rejection from producers and publishers, well heck, that’s part of the territory. Lots of rejection, some great breakthroughs. Swing with it baby, it’s what you’ve gotten yourself into.
You can try an exercise or two. Do something silly like wearing socks that don’t match for a day. See how that goes. Does anyone even notice? If they do are they amused? It could even be a fun conversation starter.
Go to a busy place like an airport or a mall or downtown and leave your watch at home. Politely ask strangers for the time. Yep, some are going to ignore you. But mostly they’ll either glance at their watches and give you the time, or a few may even chat with you for a moment. And you might run into others with the same shyness issue you have. Hey, it’s a good exercise.
Think about it, talk to your friends about it. Find ways to shed that needless anxiety and do it early in your career. Thicken your skin and realize there are lots of folks in that boat of anxiety, shyness and fear of rejection right along with you.
Got any shyness breakthrough stories or helpful tricks? Share them with us.