Last week I confronted one of my lifelong fears – public speaking. I did my first author talk at my local library.
If anyone had told me even a year ago that I would be speaking in front of 40 people I would have quaked at the knees and squawked, ‘No way!’
The talk went over much better than I’d dared hope, despite my catastrophic nightmares of finding myself naked and trying to hide behind the lectern or having a brain freeze in the middle of it and forgetting where I was. I’m still on a high from my success.
Two things spurred me on to do it. The first was the realization that marketing is an inevitable part of being an author these days, and there’s only so much online marketing you can do. People relate to real people and readers love to meet authors in person. And they’re often much more likely to buy your books if they’ve met you and like you and heard you do a reading from your novel. So the author talks, book signings and interviews are all part of the process.
The second was that the issue of public speaking had been rattling around in the back of my mind for years. I guess I instinctively knew that sooner or later I would have to deal with it. Who was it who said that the thing you’re most avoiding is the thing you most need to do? Eleanor Roosevelt put it succinctly – ‘You must do the thing you think you cannot do.’
Writer and blogger Jeff Goins wrote a very inspiring post called Stop Being Afraid. His words are always simple, clear and direct. As he says, courage isn’t the absence of fear, it’s the willingness to face it despite how you feel. You can never get rid of fear, but you can learn to not let it paralyze you. And two of his other statements also resonated with me.
‘Fear is asking for advice when you already know what to do’ and
‘Fear is waiting for more information before acting on what you already know.’
In other words, fear makes us procrastinate, makes us think of a hundred reasons why we can’t do something, spend days, weeks or even years in research and ask everyone’s opinions and advice. When deep down you know exactly what you need to do. It’s just too scary to take that first step.
I know all these things because this is exactly what I’ve been doing. Putting off setting myself up as a fulltime freelance writer. I’ve dipped my toe in the water and hastily pulled it back out again. Many times. I’ve done lots of writing part-time, but not enough for me to give up my day job, my regular income.
It’s comforting to see that money appear in my bank account every fortnight. Comforting but stultifying, because writing is what I was born to do. When I’m writing all’s right with the world and it gives me a natural high. But it’s a scary thing to do it full time, to push away from the solid river bank of my job into the swirling current of being a freelancer.
But having faced one fear has had a flow-on effect. If I can get up and speak in front of a roomful of people, which I have been avoiding for years, why shouldn’t I be able to make a living as a freelance writer, which I have also been avoiding for years? Logically, no reason at all. But fear is an emotion and emotions don’t always respond well to logic.
Until you decide it’s time to deal with those emotions, until the restlessness and frustration and the urge to achieve your goal or fulfil your dream becomes more powerful than the fear of doing it.
Time to take a deep breath and step out.
Have you battled a fear and won? Or still plucking up the courage? I’d love you to share your experiences in the comments below.
Robin Storey is an Australian author from the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia. She is a certified book nerd and has no weird hobbies or unusual pets.