Writing is show business for shy people. That’s how I see it.
— Lee Child
I could approach this quote from so many different angles:
♦ writing — Why do people write? Why do I write? (I think I’ve done this before.)
♦ opinions — This quote was posted on a writing Facebook page with the heading, ‘I’m not sure I agree, what about you?’ Lots of people disagreed, but does that mean Lee Child was wrong? Can your own personal opinion ever be wrong?
♦ shyness — Such a debilitating character trait and one I possess.
I am going to go with the latter, because I think I have touched on the first two in previous posts. (I rarely reread my posts, I would find too many mistakes and things I didn’t like. The whole point of this blog is for me to just write.)
Shyness, as I see it, is one of those awkward personality traits which divides people. I know some who can not and will not tolerate shyness in others; yet some people overcompensate for their friend’s (or more likely their family member’s) shyness by speaking for them.
I have heard comments along the lines of: ‘Oh, she’s just shy … leave her alone,’ through to ‘She’s so stuck up!’
Neither of these comments, which are at either end of the spectrum of responses to shyness in others, are helpful to the shy person. The first sweeps the whole problem under the carpet and the second is judgemental and shows lack of empathy.
There is a fine line in how much a shy person should be encouraged to integrate. For me, sometimes all I need is an invitation, ‘Come and sit here.’ This works particularly well if the group is small.
It’s when that invitation becomes pushy, or personal, that things become awkward. Maybe the invite is to come and join a large group of people who all seem to know each other and are already consumed in their own conversations. This is just going to exacerbate the shyness. Or maybe you simply do want to be alone.
The person who invited you means well, they’ve probably noticed you’re on your own … but if the invitee says, ‘Thank you, but I’m fine,’ then that is a good cue to accept the answer and back off.
The absolute best response, from the person issuing the invitation is, ‘No worries, but come and join us later if you’d like to.’ In my experience, most people do this.
But, I have experienced occasions where the person has acted offended, and once someone even muttered, ‘You don’t need to be so stuck up.’ Not helpful.
I am shy. It has always been there, and always will. It is not something you can ‘grow out of’, but I have learned to deal with it.
Friends and acquaintances have said to me, ‘You don’t seem shy.’ Believe me, it’s there, but I have learned to force myself to go up to people, introduce myself, say hello. It is very, very difficult. I am still not, nor will ever be, good where large groups of people are concerned, but if the group is small I am ok. Uncomfortable, but ok.
I have also, on numerous occasions, stood up in front of a full room of people and delivered a speech. Again, this is something I have had to force myself to learn how to do without falling in a heap. Throughout the speech, I still wish the ground would open up and swallow me, but I can get through it — as long as I am prepared; impromptu speeches never end well.
When I was at school — right from primary school through to university — giving a ‘talk’ was a nightmare. I would rather go to the dentist, and I hate dentists. ‘Talk time’ (or ‘news’ as it was called then) was torture. My stomach would drop if I noticed that part of the unit assessment was an ‘oral presentation’. I could write red-hot speeches, I just couldn’t deliver them. My stomach would be doing flip-flops, my mouth was dry, and my brain was mashed potato. Rarely did I score well. And it didn’t only affect large presentations; I also found it extremely difficult to participate in group discussion. Sometimes up to 40 percent of the unit’s assessment was allocated to group discussion. I did not fare well. Give me a written assessment any day. My peers thought I was crazy.
Shyness can be absolutely debilitating.
I often look at people who seem to love to dress up, socialise, speak up … and I am envious. But I also wonder if some of their ‘confidence’ is a mask for something else. I never assume.
So, I agree with Lee Child. What I write is how I would like to speak. While it may not go as far as ‘show business’ it is still an expression of who I would outwardly like to be.