Last spring at Keycon, I had people I had never seen before come up to me and say Hi. They knew my name – knew me from my blog. It was a weird experience. I mean, that’s the point of the blog being public – getting attention, and getting attention from people interested in reading what I write when I get my novel published. I know there’s a certain amount of danger – there’s weirdos out there, but I figure if I plan on being a published author, I’m eventually going to have to bite it and have my picture associated with my name in public. I’ve drawn lines of course – I don’t put my home address or phone number out there, or even my email address – the contact me link on my site just has a form, and doesn’t give my email address. I stopped at giving my home city, and the airports I’ve flown out of, and what conventions/conferences I’ll be at. I’m not a paranoid person – I think I’m being reasonable.
It was just kind of different, to be recognized. And now that I think about it, kind of cool to have a male approaching me to say hi with interests other than hitting on me. It wasn’t just the blog at Keycon either, I did a few panels and it seems when you get up in front of a crowd, it changes how people treat you. You’re no longer a random face in the crowd, you’re the woman who discussed Dieselpunk intelligently on the Steampunk/Dieselpunk/Cyberpunk panel, and did the panel on flight, and was the organizer for the short film viewing. And then people talk to you.
I do fine in conversation mostly – when it’s answering questions about things, I’m fine. When I’m put on the spot to come up with something to say, like at the Women In Aviation gathering with the First to Solo award presentation, I freeze up. Deer in the headlights.
I’ve gotten over a lot of being painfully shy. I used to be so much worse. Though, I don’t actually remember being shy, so much as just knowing if I was the centre of attention, it was because I did something wrong, or stupid, or people were just picking on me for no reason at all. I was bullied as a child, and that always leaves scars. When I’m put on the spot and am not prepared with something to say, then I’m suddenly afraid that whatever comes out of my mouth is going to be stupid, or come across horribly wrong.
Conversation – much easier. It distracts me from the attention and I can focus on the subject matter of the conversation. And yet, I love attention. Just not negative attention. I like having done something well, or made something I can show off, and being praised for it. I might be terribly nervous getting up to perform in front of an audience, but the applause at the end makes it so worth it.
I see-saw between being shy and being an attention whore. It came on my again when I got to spending more time at Lyncrest, and C-FLUG, and Jill, and the other women involved in C-FLUG. Some of them were at the First to Solo award presentation and knew me from there. Some had seen my picture in articles, but it was again with the people coming up to me that I had never seen before, or if I had they were someone in a crowd, but they knew my name. And one day Jill commented about how wonderful it was that I was getting all my flight training down in my blog. I said I’m never sure if there’s anyone around home who reads it, and she said “Oh, we all do!” And then I was feeling all shy and bashful again.
It does sometimes feel safer to write about things when I’m not likely to ever meet the people who read what I’ve written. I love getting comments on the blog (I have a friend who has promised to troll my site, but has never actually done so. I’m disappointed.) But most comments are from people I haven’t met in person. Then at Keycon I met some of the people who’ve commented on my blog, and it was weird and cool. And now there’s people who know me from an entirely different circle. I don’t think I’m trying to make a point with this post. I’m just rambling an thinking thoughts.
And sometimes I do pour my heart out here, and I’ve never once had anyone leave a comment that made me regret it. I treat the thing like a journal, and the difference between a journal and a diary, is a journal is written for someone else to read at some point. I kept a diary for a few years, but it was hard to motivate myself to write anything that wasn’t intended to be read by someone else, either for entertainment or educational purposes.
But while I feel free to let myself be vulnerable here, there are certain things I hold back. Mainly anything that I think might embarrass people I care about, or who didn’t – you know – ask for it. This isn’t a platform for me to lash out or take revenge. It can sometimes be hard to avoid, because my writing is always influenced by my own experiences, and also, I do want to let others who have gone through the kind of things I have know that they’re not alone. So I’m torn sometimes, on how much to tell. But I’ll deal with those things as they come up. Negativity attracts negativity, and I want this to be a positive place.
I can relate to this. The thing I’ve realized recently is that for every shy author/whatever who gets nervous in some situations, there are a hundred “normal” people who are just too afraid to bother putting themselves out there at all.
I think by actually stepping out, you’ve pretty much already won.
That’s very true. And sometimes once I get going, I can relax a little. On the panel of three at keycon, I wasn’t even nervous, because then, I wasn’t alone at the front of the room.
To write – whether in a blog or for general consupmption is incredibly exposing. I think you say:
“It does sometimes feel safer to write about things when I’m not likely to ever meet the people who read what I’ve written”
That speaks to the emotional assault course writers have to go through when they present their work. As a writer I can craft and nurture a piece of writing, and it’s my baby, my darling; and then I have to show it off in public. And that’s like exposing your soul. I suspect you have to be really experienced and maybe really successful as a writer to be uncaring about someone coming along and say “Meh” to your work, especially if you think “that’s the best I can do”.
You also say:
“I see-saw between being shy and being an attention whore” but I wonder whether you are finding that to be less the case as you get older, bolder, wiser. It’s great to have attention, good attention (most people love it) but it’s not the real barometer of your value. Some people earlier in your life may have marred your perception of yourself, I can relate to that, and the bullying thing; but now you are being more of who you really are, I’m guessing you jusy don’t have to swing between attention seeking and shyness so much.
That’s somewhat true too. If anyone asked me what’s going through my head when the social anxiety kicks in, it’s that I’m going to do something or say something that makes me look stupid. Or even just that someone will bully me, and twist what I say to make me look stupid.
But I know more things than I did when I was younger, and I’m more confident in my own knowledge. And there’s power in standing at the front of the room. I’m sure you’ve seen it – some punk kid at the back of the room disagrees with the speaker, thinks they know everything, and tries to make the speaker looks like they don’t know what they’re talking about. And the person standing up at the front of the room says “No. No, you’re wrong.” And explains why. Who in the audience then ever takes that punk kid seriously? The person standing up at the front is placed in a position of authority, just by being there and not in the audience, and the moment you realize you have that power to make someone else look like the asshole; the stupid one – then you’re less afraid, and less vulnerable.
Not that I would use that power if it wasn’t warranted, of course 😛 I’m not a mean person by nature. One of the reasons I write – when I think of nasty things to say or do to people that would be funny or fun, I can’t bring myself to do it to real people, so I just write them into stories.
Perfectly pleasant and reasonable people can still conceive of perfectly unpleasant and unreasonable things to do to people they think are assholes. At writers have the chance to create characters to to those things to 😉
But I do not promise that if a customer insults me severely enough, not to send them an envelope full of craft glitter.
Impressive post, Lindsay. I kept drafting comments, but C. A. and Andrew stole my thoughts!
My anxieties relate to other people’s criticism echoing my own Inner Critic, who is much worse than any external critic. I’ll have to get the bugger surgically removed…