Unaccustomed As I Am To Public Speaking …

Introvert 1Are you a shy person? I am. I don’t like small talk, or parties or crowds, or my mobile phone. I do like time alone in the bush, working with horses and dogs, writing, reading … it doesn’t really matter. When I’m alone I’m at peace. One simple way to diagnose yourself is to take a free Myer Briggs personality test. I’m an INFJ which is apparently common among writers.

Public Speaking BCIntroversion generally suits a writer’s life except in one respect – public speaking. These days part of an author’s platform includes giving talks: at launches, libraries, book stores, etc. I’m even a member of a terrific group called The New Romantics, four authors (including Kathryn Ledson, Kate Belle and Margareta Osborn) who present panel discussions on different aspects of writing and reading at writer’s festivals. This sort of thing does not come naturally to a shy person, or so I thought until I read Public Speaking for Authors, Creatives and other Introverts by Joanna Penn.

Joanna Penn Speaking

Joanna Penn Speaking

What a marvellous book! Joanna is an author, international speaker and entrepreneur based in London, England. She was voted as one of The Guardian UK Top 100 creative professionals 2013. She is also an introvert. The premise of her book is that public speaking is not an act of extroversion – shy people can excel at it too. When Joanna first started speaking, she developed a stage persona, a kind of ‘extroverted shell.’ But putting on an appearance cost her in energy, authenticity and even health. It was only when she embraced her introversion that she found her true voice as a speaker. Her handbook covers psychological aspects, as well as practical things like preparing and giving a speech, all from the perspective of an inherently shy person. She also gives a disarming personal account of how she increased her own confidence and learned to cope with nerves. I wish I’d had this book years ago! Her website The Creative Penn has lots of resources for writers as well.


The Quiet Literary Achievers

introvertWhen I first began this writing gig, it seemed a perfect fit for my personality. I’m a bit of an odd-one-out, an introvert. I don’t much like crowds, or noisy parties, or even busy shopping centres. I’d rather be out in the bush, or talking to the animals … or writing. Writing is a solitary profession, and most writers are to a greater or lesser extent, loners. It can be no other way and this suits me just fine.

MeThen I became published, and read the endless advice all over the internet about the key to writing success. Publisher publicity wasn’t enough apparently. No, I had to become an authorpreneur, a juggernaut of self-promotion. I needed thousands of Twitter followers and 5,000 Facebook friends. I needed to strategically comment on high-traffic websites that targeted my audience, organise mega-blog tours, approach book stores and libraries, juggle daily posts on every form of social media. That’s when the collywobbles set in. The idea of flagging down readers and pushing my work on them was about as appealing as a kick in the head.

But do you know what? I discovered that, as with all things in life, there is a balance. You don’t need to be loud and flashy, with a sales pitch set at full volume, to succeed as an author. But you also shouldn’t be reluctant to join in the conversation, to link with other writers and experience that gorgeous sense of literary community that’s out there. I’ve discovered that I like Twitter and Facebook. I enjoy talking occasionally about my work, and most of all, I love connecting with readers.

quiet achieverSo I’d like to remind all of the shy, self-contained writers (including my niece!), not to be discouraged. There are plenty of quiet literary achievers out there. I’ve met them. Frenzied self-promotion is not the only path to success. First write an amazing book, one that says something important, one that showcases the vivid world living within your own imagination. Next, find the level of engagement that suits you, and be open to new people and experiences. It can be fun! Lastly, allow your genuine passions to shine through. Folk tales, science fiction, conservation, children’s literacy – it doesn’t matter, as long as the subject is close to your heart. Be authentic, and people will engage with you. It’s true!

P.S. Can’t wait to reveal the cover of Currawong Creek – coming soon …