Okay, so I’m taking this workshop called Act Like A Writer. It’s supposed to help nervous-wreck hermit-type writers like me build their public persona and gain confidence in all sorts of public situations, from pitching agents to meeting fans.
I was scared down to my socks.
My wonderful musician aunt told me to “breathe to the floor,” but I focused more on not collapsing onto the floor because my legs trembled so badly. Instructors Jonathan Maberry and Keith Strunk threw us to the wolves immediately—into the hot seat to pitch. And just to make our terror complete, they VIDEOTAPED us for critique purposes!
When my turn came, I could barely walk to the hot seat. I sat there on the tipping point of a panic attack. The mess inside my head whirled around like a tornado, and I thought throwing up, passing out, or having my head explode was a real possibility. The oddest phenomenon—that of sitting on my own shoulder listening to my mouth talk—capped the out-of-control sensation.
Then I was done. Until the video got posted online.
Due to technical glitches, I did not get to see my video until the day of the next class. One by one, as others watched their videos, they posted traumatized messages about how hard it was to watch themselves. I agonized as I waited—I’d been such a mess, how could this not be painful to watch?
So I held my breath and pressed “play.” And…elation! Far from being the travesty I’d expected, I looked calm. I sounded coherent. I appeared so…normal. Sure, I had things to work on, but I was overjoyed all the same. If I take away nothing else, I will take away this valuable lesson:
My external presentation does not reveal my internal panic-stricken maelstrom.
Talk about a confidence booster! The way I felt and the way I looked could not have been farther apart. I realize that my fear of the fear’s effect on my performance had been more debilitating than the anxiety itself. It was an epiphany.
Will I still be nervous when I pitch? Absolutely. I will always be nervous. But now I will not be a nervous wreck.