I dread public speaking. I know I’m not alone in this, since public speaking is often cited as the number one thing most people are afraid of, but knowing this doesn’t really help me. I’m an introvert by nature, and having to stand (or even sit) before a group of people and speak to them twists my stomach into knots and leaves me shaking.
This posed a problem when my first book came out. My very kind editor didn’t insist that I schedule any signings or appearances, but I was excited to finally see my work published after so many years and I wanted to get the word out. But the very idea of contacting a bookstore and asking them to let me do a book signing stopped me cold. What if they said yes? Then I’d be committed to an actual event, one where people would expect me to talk, at least a little.
Thankfully, another member of my writing group was getting her first book published around the same time, and one of our more experienced members was releasing a book a short time later. So we decided to all do a signing together. That way, if one of us got stage fright (and I was pretty sure that person would be me), the others could step in and take over.
Still, the closer the book signing came, the more nervous I got. I started hoping I’d get hit by a bus. Not hard, mind you, but enough to break a couple of bones and keep me in the hospital until after the big day was over. Or maybe I could contract the bubonic plague somehow. That involves quarantine, doesn’t it?
Alas, when signing day finally rolled around, I was completely healthy and injury free, much as I’m sorry to say. So I had to show up. I couldn’t let the other authors down.
We arrived nice and early, and my heart lifted at the sight of the empty bookstore. Maybe no one would show up. But then people started trickling in a short time later, crushing my hope. So much for that idea.
Once I realized there was no way out, I decided I was going to fake it until I made it. When my turn came, I plastered a smile on my face, cleared my throat, and started speaking. Sure, I could hear a quiver in my voice. Sure, the hands I clasped in my lap were shaking. But the audience didn’t seem to notice. Or if they did, they didn’t care. So I kept talking. The more I spoke, the easier it got. About halfway through, I realized no one was going to throw things at me, no one was going to boo. I actually started to enjoy myself.
That doesn’t mean I like public speaking, not by any stretch of the imagination. But I’ve done several more appearances and haven’t died yet. Turns out public speaking won’t kill you after all. Who knew?