When mystery novelist and Funds For Writers founder and editor C. Hope Clark gave me a copy of her book, The Shy Writer Reborn, I was surprised I hadn’t already bought it. Yes, I’m a Hope fan, but that’s not why I wanted to read it: I’d rather have a root canal than speak before 1,000 people. OK, make that 100 people. OK, make that 50. I can talk to anyone one-on-one; I adore interviewing people! Put me with a kindred spirit or an interesting soul at a gathering and I can converse for hours….but I certainly don’t crave a large group. How do you get to know someone that way? I don’t hog up the air at big meetings. At a conference, I’d much rather talk to others individually, at lunch, breaks or in class, and relate to each other than stand in a room with all eyes on me. I always thought this was a character flaw of mine. You too?
Apparently there’s tons of writers like us. This excellent book is full of tips for people who’d rather email than answer the home phone, or who choose coffee and conversation with a friend or colleague instead of a huge party. And the best part of the book? You don’t have to change. It will not shame you for your strength and force you into being more bubbly. Instead, it teaches you how to work within your own framework. Hope gives us permission to be us.
Hope and I had a great conversation about how to help ourselves succeed in a world where a writer must promote themselves and some deeper questions–are we afraid of rejection, of showing the world our fire? Does it hold us back? Here’s our conversation.
Hope, thank you so much for joining us. Your book had some great points with true depth. I loved: “our energy is buried deep within, so we often feel we don’t have a chance at this charisma business. Wrong. I claim that the more genuine we are, the more true to ourselves, the more sure we are that writing is our soul’s purpose or the message we write has meaning, the more potential we have as charismatic beings.”
HOPE: In my years of fighting the public eye, I learned early on that when I talked naturally, as if I loved each and every person in the audience, as if I sincerely wanted to leave them with a change in their lives, as if the only option was telling the heart-felt truth, my message was not only received well, but I found it easier to deliver. That’s pure authenticity. I want to help those people, even if it’s just helping them to have an entertaining moment with my story! That need to assist can overcome lots of reservation, because the need of the person overrides your fear of speaking. Just get someone to start speaking about what they believe in, what they are good at, what they love . . . and you see personality oozing out of their pores. That’s pure charisma. When I realized all of this, I sensed a release from the frozen shackles of public speaking. Being real is much, much easier than pretending. And there’s nothing to fear in being ourselves. I know, I know. What if someone doesn’t like you, or agree with you? Well, it feels better being disliked for being you than being disliked for being a fake. Wouldn’t you say?
So true! I highlighted half the book. What do YOU think was the most important point of the book? What is your overriding message?
HOPE: I wrote this book because so many writers spend months and years writing stories then freeze up, locking that work in a freezer for fear of putting themselves out there. When someone dares to be herself in public, a magic happens. I adore that magic. I’ve actually felt my lip quiver with excitement when I connected with a writer or reader who “got” what I was saying, or related to me, or walked away enlightened. It’s one of the biggest “highs” in life…to be respected and liked. Why do we fear that? It’s so natural to stand up and be yourself. And it’s not extroverted. You can do it quietly, simply, whisper it even, but when someone dares to show me her real side, I feel honored. It’s a symbiotic relationship that is so strong. It’s respectful of each other. As introverts we often hide, saving our talents, feelings and opinions when we have so dang much to offer the world. I want introverts to enjoy being themselves…in public.
I also loved: “You don’t learn to be an extrovert, you learn to be a stronger you.”
HOPE: The collected, soft-spoken, gentle soul is appealing and can appear confident and wise. When we are happy with ourselves, others feel it. So, as a writer, you learn your strengths, develop them further, and learn who you are. That only comes from daring to get rejected. With such a worthy purpose, the rejection soon hurts less. And there’s nothing loud about any of that. You strongly, subtly continue to move forward with goals in mind. You become diligent. You’d be amazed at how people start watching you as you advance, wanting to know your secret, when all you did was be a better you and aim for your dream. People are hungry for that, and being an introvert only serves to show them how serious you are to march forward in a noisy world…in your own quiet way.
I also highlighted the parts about negative self-talk: “I’m not as prominent as Sue Grafton….I’m only a debut author….I’ll never find a publisher….” Do you think sometimes it’s a confidence issue or a legitimate character trait [of being introverted]?
HOPE: We often call ourselves shy when it’s more a confidence issue. Or we listen to others who label shyness as a lack of confidence or an inherent character flaw. Extroverts are not necessarily confident, just as introverts aren’t always afraid. We try to label ourselves to give ourselves an easy excuse as to why we will not make it, or why we keep getting rejected. I want the introverted writer to realize that the grand majority of writers are introverted, to include the NY Times Bestseller people. Many introverts are confident. I get nervous before speaking… but developing a sense of confidence will carry me across that nervous threshold and help me complete my task. I want introverts to see Sue Grafton as a goal, not an intimidating level of success we cannot achieve. Speaking of Grafton, she’s rather introverted. But she followed through with her writing. If we proceed with dignified, focused confidence, success more readily follows.
What are some of your tips for people not comfortable with all the promotion that comes with writing a book?
HOPE: My biggest suggestion is not to try and do it all. Don’t open an account on every social media device out there. Don’t try to blog each and every day unless you enjoy it. Just like you find your writing niche, you seek a comfortable marketing niche. Become an expert with Twitter. Or write phenomenal blog posts. My specialty is a newsletter which feeds my website. Create great podcasts. Use recipes. Whatever you do, choose an item that scares you the least, focus on it, learn from the masters. Introverts love to focus, so do so. You’ll become an expert at it before you know it. But you have to stick with it…religiously. Anything in this business takes time and consistent attention to it. Do not try to short cut, and resist backing away from it for fear of comments, feedback and snark. Proceed steady, eye on the horizon, respecting everyone you touch.
Introverts don’t like to wing it. So you offer advice on creating elevator speeches; one sentence summaries; mission statement.
HOPE: At first they sound like work. The one-liners, the quick elevator blurb, the mission statement. These abbreviated responses actually do more to raise your confidence level than educate others. When someone asks you a question and you can spill out an immediate, polished answer in very few words, you sound smart as heck! They respect you more. You see it. You feel it. Then voila…you feel really good about yourself. You have your act together! I’m preparing for a conference right now, and believe me, I’m drumming up my elevator one-liners to questions I’ll answer at dinner, at a book signing, in the hallway between sessions, to agents. What is your book about? What are you writing? Why did you come to the conference? What have you published? When we remove the stumbles and the ums and ers, we do so much better. That few moments of preparation jacks up our confidence. We love giving “right” answers instead of searching and reaching for words.
What do you think your most important tip is re: public speaking?
HOPE: The most important thoughts to keep in mind are these, in my opinion. First, if you screw up, it’s not the end of the world. It just isn’t! I’ve done it, and I literally reminded myself that I’d probably never see these people again. That got me through the evening. And nobody has ever reminded me of that speech. That evening made no big ripple in the universe and didn’t hurt my writing career one bit. Second, your audience wants you to succeed. They don’t show up hoping you aren’t any good. On the contrary. They feel for you and want to see you do well. If you falter, own it. I guarantee you your audience is feeling your pain, glad they aren’t up there…respecting you for standing behind that lectern and seeing the event through. We are human. Life is good. When you take those two sentences to heart, you can get through most anything. By the way, I give a few tricks of the trade in the book to memorize…that get anyone through most anything.
I also loved the depth in this statement: “…maybe your rejections are because you’re afraid of showing the world your internal fire, so you hold back.”
HOPE: Introverts have some of the most beautiful fire in the world! We stoke it, keep it burning, but we tend to hug it only to ourselves. We don’t have to shout from the rooftops when we release it, but sometimes we tend to think in extremes. That’s what’s so great about the Internet. We can send it out to the world and share and not scream it. We have so much to offer. There are many like us who’d love to see us do well, which means they have a chance, too. Your creative fire can kindle so many other fires. I think in our seclusion we forget that. As much as I adore my fiction, when I meet a writer who feels I’ve been an asset to them publishing, winning a contest or attending a conference, I feel the most accomplished. Giving to others is the greatest deed, and yes, the selfish act of putting our writing out there, in spite of our reservations, can prove to be the catalyst that makes a difference with another human being. After all, isn’t that why we write?#
If you would like a copy of Hope’s book, The Shy Writer Reborn, you can buy it through this Amazon link now!