Friday, April 23, 2010

Shyness and Apples and Port-a-Potties (Oh my!)

By Heather

Writing is often described as a lonely career. Sitting in front of a computer all day, mingling only with the characters in our heads for hours at a time... Months, sometimes a year, working on a novel day in and day out. Little sunshine, little exercise, little socializing...

And then, when it's time to promote the new book, the author is thrust into the public to talk, sign, read.

It's enough to make any shy person quake in their shoes.

And trust me, I've quaked.

I'm about as shy as people come, and I remember the first time I had to speak to a group, about eight years ago. My hands shook, my legs shook, my voice shook. I was terrified. Scared to death. But thankfully time and experience have helped tremendously, and I'm rarely nervous anymore. It helps knowing that people don't come to see me expecting a great orator--they just want to hear what I have to say. Even if it's in my own quirky, rambling way. I am who I am (hmm, I'm now hearing Popeye in my head), and that's who you'll see when you come to one of my events. (The pic is me with Denise Swanson and Marcia Talley in Bolingbrook, IL. 2008.)

But it took me a long time to get to that place. I never dreamed of being a public speaker as a teenager (hah!). It would have been at the bottom of any of my career lists. Right under port-a-potty cleaner. I'm in awe of kids who can do this so easily, as if second nature. Kids like my daughter.

Now, that apple doesn't fall far from this tree. She's on the shy side, too, but put her on a stage and she comes alive. It's an amazing to watch. She has a supporting role (a pirate's sidekick) in her high school's musical this week, and she's funny and expressive, and (oh dear lord--I'd have hives for sure) she has a small singing solo. Where on earth she finds the nerves to do something like that, I'll never know. I'm telling you, there is No Way I'd EVER get on stage and sing to a crowded auditorium (and trust me, you wouldn't want to hear it). Yet I'm filled with pride watching her do it, my eyes rarely leaving her face as she dances, twirls, sword-fights, sings (she's a great singer!) and delivers a punchline.

Kind of like the way her eyes watch me when I'm talking to a room full of book lovers (minus the sword fights of course)... It does this mother's heart good.

How about you? Are you shy or outgoing? And the bigger question: Would you ever sing a solo on stage in front of a crowd (I can feel the hives starting already just thinking about it!)?



Kaye said...

Hah! Are you kidding? Hubby tells me (too frequently, I might add) that I can't carry a tune in a bucket but no, I could never do it. I think I would faint.

Kudos to your daughter for her courage on getting up on the stage and channelling her inner actress even though she is shy.

debbie said...

You mean being in the band in the front row roup at church didn't squelch your anxiety?!?!? lol

I've never been labeled "shy." I can stand up in front of a crowd and talk like nobody's business. Years of reciting dialogue from memory in Rainbow conditioned me, I suppose.

My daughter sang in a praise group at church this past Sunday. My mom sat beside me and I leaned over to ask her (with tears in my eyes), "is THIS how you felt whenever I did something on stage?" And she, with tears in her eyes, could only nod "yes."

My daughter is so comfortable in her own skin. She didn't get that from THIS ttree. I want to be like her when I grow up.

debbie said...

oops...obviously I didn't proof my comment.....the first few sentences are goofy!


Lover of Books said...

I have never been shy. I took 11 years of ballet, tap and jazz. I sang in my church choir, danced with my mom on the worship dance team, and even used to interpret the worship songs too.

I do know that it is something that you just do or don't do. I am glad you don't get nervous as much. :)


Dru said...

I'm very shy and there is no way you would see me on stage where people can see me. You may find me on stage behind the curtain though.

Kate Collins said...

Becoming a teacher helped me overcome my shyness. I'm fine in front of a crowd with a topic I know well. Singing, on the other hand, would probably send me screaming from the room -- or maybe the people IN the room would go screaming.

I give the contestants on Dancing with the Stars lots of snaps for putting themselves out there. I couldn't do it.

Katie said...

I sang in front of a crowd once. never again. I can play piano in front of people, but do not ask me to sing or speak at all!!!

signlady217 said...

Public speaking wouldn't have even made it onto the list! :) I do. not. like. being in front of a group of people. That's why I'm still shocked that I became a teacher and a sign language interpreter!

I'm basically a shy person, but circumstances sometimes force you to do things outside your comfort zone. Working the customer service desk at Wal-Mart helped me a lot.

My mom has said that even as a tiny baby, I would bury my face in her neck and cling to her for dear life when people tried to talk to me, and my brother was just the opposite, almost falling out of her arms to go to them!

Anonymous said...

Hit me over the head with a hammer. I hate trying to talk to a group of people, does not even need to be a big group.

Shel said...

LOL! Guess I'm going to be the outcast in this group of commenters. Not only would I sing a solo in front of a crowd, I've done it. Several times. Probably wouldn't do it these days, my asthma tends to make me go a bit flat. But back in my 20's and early 30's I sang for church and for a few talent shows in my area. I get really nervous before, and wonder why I ever thought this was a good idea, but once I'm up there the "ham" in me takes over and I love it.

Sarah said...

NO WAY would I ever get up on stage even on pain of death! I'm very shy and hate all forms of public speaking.


Heather Webber said...

Kaye, I'm tone deaf, so I fabulous to my own ears--not so much anyone else's. I think I'd faint, too. My daughter definitely has an inner actress. And painter. And scientist. And musician. And lots of things. I'm very curious what she'll end up doing for a living.

Deb, the tears, I think, are a mom's right. :) And I, ahem, actually understood what you wrote. LOL. Must be that twin thing going on.

Krista, I'm glad too--it used to be painful. And dancing in front of a crowd? Might be as bad as singing for me!

Kate, I've heard that about teaching. Kind of wish I'd started with that--LOL. And between us, I think we could send a crowd scrambling with our singing. Might be fun to try some time. :)

Katie, you really do get used to it, but I totally understand the fear.

Heather Webber said...

signlady, that is an odd career choice for a shy person, but you seem to be doing well! And I'm smiling over the image of you burying your face as a baby.

Anon, I really, truly understand! And sometimes the smaller groups are a lot scarier than the big ones.

Shel, I need to borrow some of your "ham!" I'm impressed with all you've done. WOW.

Hi Sarah, public speaking isn't for everyone that's for sure. :) I know I never thought I'd be doing it. Funny how life throws curve balls once in a while.

Tonya Kappes said...

A.....NOPE! Not a shy bone in my body! I'm probably too outgoing and scary to some! I have four boys, 2 are shy like their dad, 2 are as crazy as me.

Vicki said...

I agree with Kate Collins...teaching made me go from a shy person to a much more self-confident person and you do get used to talking about subjects or topics you know well. Singing, on the other hand, is not something I would attempt unless I could blend in with a group! thanks!

Vickie said...

I used to be manically shy, but made myself get jobs that put me out there with people to get over it as much as I could. I am shy-ish, but when I hit my comfort zone, I can talk your ear off. I do my best when around people shyer than I am.

No way would I get up in front of a lot of people to sing. Even sweet Lady K patted me on the arm when she was very small and asked me to not do that no more, pweese.

Andrea C. said...

I love to talk and I am a teacher so I spend my day in front of 16 and 17 year old with no problems; however, when I have to speak in front of adults I don't know I get sooo jittery and nervous and that feeling in my stomach arrives. Isn't that strange? In front of folks I don't know and will never see again the butterflies start, but in front of somewhat judgemental teenagers, I am in my element
PS- I would never sing in front of a crowd because I would want to spare them the pain (and me the total tone deaf humiliation! Ha!)

Rural View said...

My stage career began and ended with one "performance" in eighth grade when I had just three words to say, "Hush, she's coming!" NOW I can remember them - the evening of the play - NOPE. Very humiliating, and hopelessly amusing to my classmates. :(