About 10 minutes into a talk I was giving to a group of college students, I mentioned that I was a shy introvert. After a moment of silence, I heard a few scoffs from the audience and even, "I don’t believe that!"
I could see the paradox and I did it deliberately to prove a point.
Even though I feel a crushing anxiety whenever the phone rings, or when I cross the street to avoid small talk with a stranger, and even though I’m the one huddled in a corner having a meaningful conversation with someone while everyone else is mingling at a party, I can still confidently give a talk to a room full of students like I’ve been doing it all my life.
I’m a writer and that suits my personality perfectly. I can spend long hours quietly writing to my heart’s content while listening to the John Denver back catalogue. But then at some point I have to face the music: I have to do a book launch, have a book signing, meet my readers, introduce myself to bookstore managers, give radio interviews, appear on stage and give talks like the one I did to these students.
At first it wasn’t easy, and some aspects still aren’t. However, I know if I want to be a successful writer and share my stories with people, I have to go through this process. I need to put the fear aside and just do it.
You can imagine how hard it was for me, a shy person, to walk into a bookstore, introduce myself as a writer and then ask the store to stock my book. I was dying inside every time I had to do it, but luckily I often had my partner with me which made things a bit easier.
Now, I’m almost comfortable with my shyness and introversion after having developed a new understanding of how it affects me. Based on years of living with this reality, I’ve implemented a few workarounds which may be of help for other people too:
1. I use email a lot.
I have trouble with making the first contact with someone over the phone, so I always use email or social media at first, and that’s perfectly fine (it's how I got my first book contract)! I search publishers on Facebook to get email addresses if I can't find them elsewhere.
2. I slip into ‘another character’ every time I need to do an interview.
When I interview or make a public appearance, I’m not ‘Josh, the shy guy’, but instead this crazy, confidant guy who wants to investigate the afterlife. I still get knots in my stomach beforehand, but once I’m on, the character takes over and I play the part confidently and actually enjoy the experience. I always rehearse out loud by myself and carry talking points with me so I have a quick reference guide.
3. I’ve become more positive about presenting my work and myself to the world.
I used to tell people (and believe) that writing books doesn’t make money. But I know that’s not true, as I have made money from my books. So now I’ve changed my mantra to, “Writing books and doing what I love, makes me money and makes me happy." It’s a powerful difference and helps me push through intense moments of shyness and anxiety.
When I’m elderly, I may well still be shy and an introvert but I don’t want that to have stopped me from living a wonderful, successful life doing what I love. And remember, there are so many others out there who feel exactly the same way. You have a lot to offer the world! We need your skills too! Hopefully these tips can help take the edge off and let you shine!