I am introverted out. To the point where leaving my house is painful. I don’t even want strangers to look at me. It’s taken me a lot of years to not have to take an entire week or two away from people to recover. I’m still recovering from GRL, but I can still function with people. GRL came after a week of vacation and basically had me out of town for two weeks straight so it was an intense two weeks of not being in my own space and of course all the people that come along with this.
Signings and conferences are amazing and rewarding, and I love meeting people and socializing, but they also take everything and more out of me. I used to have such a hard time at events like these, that I barely spoke to anyone. I have special anxiety and it was a massive leap to be there. I had to practice. I know exactly where the idea of practicing extroverting came from. I was at RT 2017 which was only the second signing I had attended and the first conference. I went with no one I knew, which was a huge first for me. I was meeting online friends (This is where Pixie and Gray started) but I wasn’t going with anyone I’d met. I was still a mess of an introvert and even had a panic attack in public, but it was the start of this faking extrovertism.
I can’t remember who’s panel I was sitting in, but the author was asked about how she was so good at public speaking. Her reply was practice. She launched into a story much like mine, involving social anxiety and a fear of public speaking. She said she knew this about herself and was determined to change it so she started public speaking as much as possible. She went out of her way to find ways to practice. Asking the library for a reading, these panels, any little chance she got out there. She said it wasn’t easy at first, but every single time she forced herself to get up in front of people it got easier. I had GRL coming up later this year, with a panel I had to be on, on top of author lounges and more signings. I needed to learn from this. Signings I was getting more comfortable with, but the idea of a panel scared me. The only recent time I’d spoken in public was at the wedding of my two best friends. I had to pre-write my speech and drink entirely way too much before I could bring myself to do it, and still the entire time I was speaking my hands were shaking so bad I couldn’t read the words I’d written so I had to wing it.
I was going to have to learn how to fake it until I made it. I went to GRL 2017 and it was hard. My hands shook, and getting words out was extremely difficult. The entire conference was a blur for me because of the amount of anxiety I was dealing with. But I’d done it, and now I was going to do it better. I don’t like to do things by half, and I know this is something for my job I need. So I said yes to any signing I could, and I started talking to people. I don’t think most people would even notice the subtle change in me, but I put myself out there. Instead of biting my tongue and wondering if I should say something until it was too late, I just said what was in my head. I still over analyzed every situation after the fact, but then it started to diminish. I stopped over thinking every single thing I didn’t say, because I was saying them, and then instead of overthinking everything I did say, I only over thought some of them, so it was actually better, and I wasn’t angry at myself anymore because of what I didn’t say. I lived in the moment and tried to stay in the moment. (I still have a huge filter but cut it back by half because you really don’t want to hear everything I think)
I hit my stride this summer at SaSS. I put myself out there. I made friends. I wasn’t anxious to go talk to people, and by GRL this year I felt almost normal.
I still have anxiety, it’s never going away. I still felt overwhelmed the day with my panel, but I got into the panel, made a joke about being fashionably late, and sat down feeling somewhat at ease. I could play my part. I talked, made jokes, enjoyed myself, all while my hands shook under the table and my chest felt tight, but if that is all I have to deal with I will take it. I didn’t need to go hide after the panel. I didn’t have a panic attack. I didn’t get chest pain like I suffer from a lot. I could breathe. I had fun. And then after the panel, the wonderful moderator told me I stole the show. I had readers come up to me afterward and tell me they were going to read my books because of how much they enjoyed the panel. The next day at the signing I had person after person told me they were in that panel and buying my books because they enjoyed it so much. I even had a fellow author I love from the panel buy a book.
I’m still drained and need some introvert time after the conference, but I don’t feel as bad as I used to. I feel inspired. I feel invigorated. I’m excited to write. I wouldn’t have had these things without going to that one random panel I decided to sit in on at RT last year. Authors get things out of panels too. We learn from each other. No one has all the cards and I firmly believe in the universe giving you the right things at the right time when you’re open to learning. And I am forever grateful to the author who told me to practice even if I can’t remember her name.