An Introvert’s Purgatory

Hands trembling. Stomach clenched. Mouth dry.

Any minute now, it will be my turn. I’m about to read an excerpt from my soon-to-be-released debut book to a roomful of people who have already had ninety minutes to stoke themselves with alcohol.

Will they like it? Will the group of people carrying on a conversation in the back of the room drown out my voice (microphone not withstanding)? Will I talk too fast? Will my voice escalate into Minnie Mouse range as it used to do whenever nerves attacked?

ejr_oct_2013Ack! Where’s the safety of my writing cave? The comfortable anonymity (and chance to edit) of online interaction? Of all the aspects of the writing life that have the potential to scare the pants off me, face-to-face interaction in which I have to present myself as the expert on my own work (which you’d think I’d know better than anyone) is at the top of the hysteria-inducing list. The first time I sat down to a pitch with an agent, I managed to spill her coffee all over the table, a concrete metaphor for how I felt about the whole thing.

Tonight, though, before I step up to the mike, I get a lovely introduction from my multi-published author friend.

Dang it! Now I can’t possibly let her down!

I thank her. Stumble through the set-up for the scene I’m about to read (damn, I really should have written that up better). But when I start to read, the same thing happens that always happened in my days as an actor.

Tunnel vision.

Most of audience fades away, reduced to one or two faces I focus on as anchors for my character voices. Sure, the conversation at the back never stops, but at least some people pay attention, laughing at the right places, and the familiarity of the words, read countless times in the last weeks of revisions, edits, copyedits, and galley proofs, propels me onward.

The end! Applause! Only polite? Maybe. It doesn’t matter. I made it through. I’m no longer an author-reader virgin. I give myself a puny mental high-five as I make way for the next author, because I’ve conquered one of my greatest fears.

Well, perhaps not conquered, precisely. I’m sure stage fright will tackle me next time – and in spite of the fear, I sincerely hope there will be a next time! But knowing I made it through at least once without a major meltdown gives my introvert soul at least a teensy self-confidence boost.

Now…where’s that wine?

This post originally appeared at See Jane Publish. Our October theme was (appropriately) fear.