Saturday, January 25, 2014

How the Shy Writer Copes When She Hits a Wall (Podcast #11)


When I speak at events, people tell me they can't believe I'm an introverted person. That's not to say I can't become a Mama Tiger when it comes to my family, or a real BE-ATCH when someone's wronged me or mine. But for the most part, I avoid throngs of people. Throngs meaning as few as four, sometimes.

I also avoid events that require interaction as in role playing. Oh my gosh, if I see anything that requires me to step up and adlib, or pretend, or act a character, I might have nightmares before and after. I'm a grown up now, and grown ups can pick and choose their activities. I WILL NOT ROLE PLAY. That's almost throwing up time. I've done it, and felt too damn miserable before, during and after.

That also includes those situations where an audience of writers may be asked to write for ten minutes then share their work with the class. Say what? My first drafts suck like buttermilk through a straw--that means really sucks in Southernese. And then you want me to stand there and take criticism for it? Like, what planet are you on?

Or those moments where the instructor or moderator sets the group into teams. Don't ask  me why, but team building exercises make me awkward as heck, too.

I can speak, when the need arises. I can adlib, if I'm backed into a corner. I can even be funny sometimes, but trust me, that's the nerves talking. But my point is I want to pick and choose the situations I enter. I've reached that stage in my life where I don't want to be embarrassed or awkward or uncomfortable--not without entering the situation completely prepared, in which case, I lesson my chances of being embarrassed, awkward or uncomfortable.

I've been speaking for over a decade now to writers. I spoke at government functions before that. Not a single one came easy. Yes, I am introverted, and I don't see me losing that character trait any time soon. No more than I'll change my eye color or the size of my feet. It's in our genes. We can shift with it, around it, and tend to it, but it does not disappear. Because just when we think we've "got this," a situation will come along and remind us that we are introverted.

I promise there is a point here. Today was one of those days that made me ponder: do I compromise my desire to avoid a throng, or do I sign up and barge into it because the results may be worth the discomfort. God, this type of decision makes me feel like I'm thirteen all over again.

Nothing makes me cozier than staying home. Just writing, or feeding chickens, or watching Elementary or Blacklist with hubby over a cup of coffee and doxies in my fleece-covered lap. Then today, as I read over my obscene daily list of emails, the announcement came that the Writers Police Academy was opening up to signees on Sunday, January 26, at noon.

So what, right?

Well, first, they fill up fast, and mystery writers think this three-day event is nothing short of phenomenal. My author peers, and my fellow Sisters in Crime, have either gone, plan to go, or hope to go next year. It's like a right of passage to many to be able to write a technically-sound mystery or suspense story. For three years I've watched  the sign-up open....then close. Each time deciding not to attend. I went to the website, read the proposed schedule for this year's event, and told myself I'd think about it.

No doubt about it, the classes are intriguing. There are police ride-alongs, jail tours, and a tad of firearms handling. Cyber crime, dead body disposal, undercover facts, evidence handling, microbial forensics, fingerprinting, special ops, exotic crimes, why good cops go bad, romance in the cop environment, and on and on. A groupie's dream. A mystery author's treasure trove of information.

Then I decided not to go.

The event features every aspect of law enforcement. Michael Connelly and Lisa Gardner are guests of honor. Seriously! That's like crack for someone who loves mystery and suspense like I do.

But I'm still not going.

You extroverts out there are probably going: What? Why? What's holding you back? Look at what you're missing!

You introverts out there are probably thinking you understand where I'm coming from.

I'm lucky enough to be married to a federal agent, retired. He has friends still in law enforcement. I have two stepsons in law enforcement and a son with US Coast Guard enforcement. I'm having lunch with a state law enforcement forensics agent this week, and we'll swap books and knowledge.

I'm more comfortable one-on-one, maybe having a drink, chatting up people without having to be ill at ease. This is what I talk about in The Shy Writer Reborn. We can still be writers, in my case a mystery author, and still be accomplished without serious compromise of who we are.

Reading about the Writers Police Academy (I spent a long time studying the site in contemplation) made me test myself. I almost decided to sign up. Then I asked myself if there was a way I could obtain my information without the stress. So I decided to make contact with individuals with specific information I needed (or use hubby to make the connection) and take a more low-key approach to doing my research.

That's how you stay true to who you are as an introvert. You find alternatives if the one before you will disturb you.

Now, I could've also considered other choices. I could've looked for a writing friend willing to attend with me. I could go and avoid the classes that involve teams and active participation or role playing. I could take an online class, or sign up for classes at my local community college. Being in the state capital, I could interview officers at the local, county, state and federal levels, even creating a few freelance articles from the effort.

Guess this is a long message for such a short lesson. If, when presented with an awkward situation, you feel uncomfortable as a shy individual, rather than freeze or run away . . . consider your options. There are always options. And you are not right or wrong in making the choice you make.

With The Shy Writer Reborn, I try to tell people they are writers to sell their words, not their souls. The best writers in the world, those who readers appreciate the most, are usually the most genuine. Life is short. Travel the route that makes you a better person who enjoys living his or her life.

Now . . . before I sign off here, I want to leave you with the most positive of positive kudos for this event. I can honestly tell you that the Writers Police Academy is awesome per the people I know who've attended. How can it not be? The instructors presenting are off-the-chart impressive. They limit attendance to 200 people, and if you are a member of Sisters in Crime, you get in for a reduced fee of $135. That's insanely reasonable for three whole days (two half days and two whole days). It takes place in Jamestown, NC, September 4-7, 2014. As I stated, sign-up starts Sunday at noon Eastern Time and the slots will go fast.  Founder Lee Lofland, with tremendous credentials of his own, has outdone himself with this event, and it improves each and every year. A hundred percent thumbs up.


Glenda Beall said...

I know many writers who hate to be in a class where they are asked to write and share their writing. I hate that, myself. I was so shy and introverted at one time in my life. I still don't like to give a talk without ample preparation. I have your first edition of Shy Writer and I recommend it to others who have a difficult time getting out and promoting their books. Thanks for writing about something few people address, but that is a major problem with many writers.

Hope Clark said...

Thanks so much, Glenda. I hate classes where you write in class. I don't believe in writer's block except when under the gun to produce in front of people...and then be expected to read it aloud. I'll even read my work aloud, but like when I speak, only after it's been prepped and edited. It is indeed a major problem with many writers. Thanks for helping other writers with it.