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Monday, October 22, 2012


It’s probably no surprise to readers of this blog, but most writers are—by and large—introverts. Oh, some do the schmoozing thing at conventions and workshops, talking to fans and giving readings, but I’m willing to bet they need alone time afterward to recover.

The main difference between extroverts and introverts is this: extroverts gain energy from crowds, from interacting with other people; introverts lose energy from crowds and need alone time on a regular basis to recharge their social “batteries.”

At least, that’s the way it is with me, which is why I kinda panicked when the folks at my local library asked me to come talk to their writers’ roundtable about e-books and e-publishing. I couldn’t say no. The folks at the library have been wonderful to me (heck, they even carry my books!). And I had taken a great workshop on e-publishing last year, an enterprise for which I received a grant. Since the public purse funded my learning, it was my duty and privilege to share what I had learned with other writers.

I spent two weeks preparing for it: reading over my notes from the workshop, talking to my e-published buddies, trying to distill an ocean of information into a 15-minute talk. I barely slept the night before. I showed up early and babbled incoherently to the organizers (who were probably doing a little panicking themselves at that point). Fifteen people showed up, which is Very Good for my little town. I could feel my batteries starting to drain.

Then it started, and honestly? I can’t remember a darned thing I said. Thank goodness I had written up notes and made copies for distributing. I hope I made sense, but some of those writers probably wondered if I was having a heart attack, my face was so red. They were unfailingly kind, and it only occurred to me later that they were writers, too, and knew exactly what I was going through.

It’s not the first time I’ve spoken in public, including giving readings, but I always react the same way. I can’t be the only one with this problem. How do others deal with it? How do some writers manage to do great readings AND talk to their fans afterward? I know some writers, like RobertSawyer, who are very comfortable in front of a large group and seem to thrive on the energy from the audience. I know other writers who need to take a few days off after a conference to recover.

What’s the difference? Am I in the minority?


Rita said...

Good for you. I’m sure you were brilliant.
My problem is I have a definite separation between my writer self and talker self. If I’ve been writing a few days, only contact with others through email, I have a problem getting my mouth to work right. Once I do step back jack ‘cause the flood gates have opened and even I don’t know what I’m going to say. So I’d say if you’re going to give a talk try doing something sociable the day before. Lunch with friends so you can chat away or maybe a practice session with them. I’m sure most feel the same way you do.

Anne Marie Becker said...

Definitely not the minority, Marcelle! (Or, if you are, I'm right there with you.)

I received the distinguished honor of being Valedictorian of my high school class. Yes, it was an honor, but so, so scary. The upside is...after speaking in front of 4,000 people, I figure I can do anything now. I still don't particularly enjoy speaking in front of people, but I remind myself frequently that I can do it. :)

As for conferences, I'm definitely an introvert. I can interact socially with everyone, but often get a room to myself that I can retreat to and recharge before it begins again the next day.

Julie Moffett said...

Good for you. Marcelle! It does take a lot of guts to get up and speak in front of people. I'm sure you were magnificent!

I happen to be the exact opposite, though. I will talk to anyone, anywhere, at any time. I love to talk. Ha! I also have a background in education and journalism and so teaching, talking, and interviewing is my kind of thing. But I actually think I'm in the minority and that most writers are more introverts than extroverts. :)

Marcelle Dubé said...

Thank you Rita, Anne Marie and Julie for the encouraging words. Rita, love the idea of a socializing session prior to the big event -- a kind of warm up session. Anne Marie, yep, there's nothing like experience to reassure you you can do something. So, Julie, what planet do you come from...? :-)

Toni Anderson said...

Marcelle--I'm just like you, which is what convinced me being a lecturer was not good for me in any shape or form. My hubby is my exact opposite. We do what we have to do, right?

Well done for doing the talk. Kudos to you :)

Marcelle Dubé said...

Thanks, Toni. I always tell myself that I gave birth, I can certainly talk in front of people. Sheesh.

Maureen A. Miller said...

If I had to speak in front of a large congregation I would curl up into the fetal position. I was literally relieved not to win the Golden Heart so that I didn't have to get up and speak. LOL singing....

Marcelle Dubé said...

Oh, Maureen, aka Gladys, you're not fooling anyone. We know you live for the limelight!

Elise Warner said...

As a writer, I haven't had the opportunity to talk in front of the audience but Marcelle, it must be something like stage fright. Before you go on, the stomach is jumping but once you begin, it disappears. I'm sure you were great. Remember what Ethel Merman said," Let the audience be nervous, they paid for the tickets."

Marcelle Dubé said...

I like that attitude, Elise!

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