The Shy Writer

I am one. Always have been. In fact, I’ve always been a shy everything. That’s a problem when you’re in the public eye (even to the minor degree that I am).

Getting up in front of an audience for any reason, whether it’s to do a reading, speak on a panel, or present an award, puts me in a cold sweat. I have a friend who loves to be in the spotlight—she’s been in community theater, improv groups, and even tried out as lead singer for a band. Never does an opportunity to do a karaoke number go by without my friend getting right up with the mic.  And I always wish that I had a tiny bit of her confidence. It would come in mighty handy when I have to do the occasional writerly appearance.


On June 24, I did a reading at Bluestockings bookstore, along with Sacchi Green, DL King, Dena Hankins and Sarah Fonseca. For all intents and purposes, it went well. But I’ve probably done about a dozen readings by now, and it’s still a hideous experience for me. It’s gotten better—I mean, the first time I did it, I thought I was being sucked into a black hole where sights and sounds all kind of swirled around me, coalescing into a ghoulish creature ready to chew my face off. Okay, I’m exaggerating. But not by much.

public-speaking-wThose of you who are like me, tell me if this sound familiar.

  • About halfway through your reading, you feel like you’ve been up there for an hour, reading endlessly, and people are out there sighing heavily with boredom, even if your entire reading is only 5 minutes long.
  • Even in the darkest room, the lights seem to be brutally bright, and focused right on you.
  • If there is total silence in the room, it becomes this looming thing that you can almost feel, and your voice suddenly sounds alien to you, and really squeaky, or nasally, or worst of all, monotone. (Did it help me that the bookstore was filled with the motor-like sounds of the air conditioner, and right during my reading, they decided to turn it off and the room fell into a dead, heavy silence? No, it did not.)
  • Every single person with a 25-mile radius, unless they’re incarcerated, are there watching you humiliate yourself.

Of course, all of these things are exaggerations. But for the shy writer, they all become very real feelings.


This is on my mind right now because I’m sandwiched in between events: the one that just passed and the panel that I’m going to be on at GCLS on Thursday, July 6. Panels, for some reason, are easier than readings. You’d think it would be the other way around, because at readings, you just read what’s already there, and you’re just saying the words out lout. But at panels, you’re asked questions about your thang, and it really behooves you to sound intelligent and like you know what you’re talking about. But that seems to suit me better than readings. I’m not sure why that is. Maybe it’s because when you’re reading your work, you’re putting it out there in a very real way and the reaction of the audience (or lack thereof) is a direct reflection of how they feel about it.

I don’t know what it is, but as this blog goes live, I will be getting ready for my panel. With any luck, I will emerge unscathed.



  1. I sooooo feel your pain!

    Yesterday marked my first appearance at a GCLS Con, one, I’m sure of many to come. I spent many years in the military and the last several of them in the Gaurd where mobilizing troops to go to far flung places was nearly an every week occurrence. I was on the road all the time speaking to soldiers and their familiies about pay and finance while the troops were mobilized. You would think that prepared me well to do readings. It did not.

    Yesterday was the 2nd reading I’ve ever done of my work. I was prepared. I’d been behind a mike, in front of an audience dozens of times. Still, my voice cracked. My hands shook. I lost my place in the size 16 font printout of my reading. That was for the open mike session where I read from my short story that made it into the anthology. Friday I have to read again from the series that I’ve been creating for a few years now…characters I feel like I’ve known forever. Will I be more comfortable? Probably not.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. So… I’m not the only one. Even writing shyness, hardwired into me, can be overwhelming. There are so many stories in my head that I just don’t have the courage to address at the keyboard. Sometimes I use the voice recorder app to get it out of my system temporarily. Of course, talking to myself doesn’t lead to that Epic Novel (that I’ve been sorting through in my dreams since I was 12) being eternally inked on the page… much less shared with the world.

    Thank you for sharing! Discovering Women and Words and the LesFic genre is my dearest blessing this past year.

    L♡VE YA!
    Michelle “MJ” White

    Liked by 3 people

  3. That was how I felt the first time I taught a college class. Then it was the first day of class for every class I taught, but finally I got over it, at least for teaching. Other kinds of public speaking still give me the willies.

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  4. Oh, ye, I know these feelings well. :/ I had to do a presentation last year as part of a college course and felt like I was going to die of anxiety. 😦

    I’m told practice makes it better. I’m not sure I believe it.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I feel your pain! Part of me is still cowering in a dark corner from the time my web design teacher asked me to do a presentation on the website I had created. Best of luck that the feeling passes.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Good luck with your panel! You’ve got guts to do this, you will rock it 🙂
    I’ve never done a live reading in my life, I’ve always genuinely been able to plead geography as an excuse, but the thought terrifies me. I applaud you. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I know your panel will go well. I totally understand.. I am a college professor and a former HS teacher. None of my students believe that I am basically shy because I stand in front of them every class. I have learned over time to realize the audience/class is just like me so I feel less intimidated. But I still get a little nervous but apparently no one notices, even my colleagues and friends think I know what I’m doing most of the time. So I let them think that. I do admit to students my anxiety so they can see me as ‘real.’

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    • The panel went okay. I still had some of that paralyzing effect, but it wasn’t too bad. My biggest fear is that people will “realize” that I’m a fraud and I really have no idea what I’m talking about.

      Liked by 1 person

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