Monday, February 28, 2011

Why The Oscars Gave Me Writing Nightmares

I watched the Oscars for a bit with my sister last night, and right before they started, they panned out to show a view of the audience taking their seats in the enormous Kodak Theater.

I looked at my sister and shuddered. "That's a lot of people."

"Imagine you had to present an award there," she said. "Imagine they called you up to present the award for the movie based on your book."

I rolled my eyes, but I couldn't help feeling flattered to know she believes in me that much. Hey... when we dream, we dream big ;)

It got me thinking though.

Although I've had to do them all through school, and even still at work for meetings, I absolutely, completely and totally HATE presentations. Because they always involved public speaking.

I abhor being the center of attention... I am by no means extroverted in any sense, and I've always shied away from the spotlight. Unless I'm very comfortable with people, all eyes turned to me usually means sweat city accompanied by a woozy stomach on the side.

The thing is, if you want to be a successful writer and dream BIG... chances are--someone, some day is going to ask you to speak at something, somewhere.

Then what? Can you say no? Is that bad?

They say practice makes perfect, and the more you work at something, the better you get at it. I think I may be an anomaly when it comes to this rule. Maybe it skipped a generation...

I've actually tried to take a course that would help with this, and ended up dropping it at the last minute because I couldn't go through with it.

I guess we'll just have to wait and see... this could all be fruitless worrying ;)

What about you? Are you an extrovert or an introvert? Do you like being in the spotlight? Do you think it will have an impact on your writing career?

32 comments:

Stephanie Thornton said...

I'm definitely an introvert, but I've had a couple jobs that involved me getting up in front of largish groups of people on a daily basis- teacher and tour director. I've discovered that if I'm prepared and know what I'm talking about I don't get nervous. Or at least not as much as I did when I was in school!

Lynda Young said...

I'm painfully shy when it comes to strangers. I'm not a fan of public speaking AT ALL and yet I have a fair amount of experience doing it. Life seems to have pushed me up front. It's terrifying, but the more prepared I am, the easier it is. I still get nervous, but I end up "just doing it". Even when I stumble or stutter, I realise it doesn't matter. No one cares. They are more interested in what the speaker has to say, than the anything else ;)

Trisha said...

Like you, I abhor public speaking. I have challenged myself in recent years to dare to do things that scare the crap out of me, i.e. teaching. OMG. I never wanted to be a teacher, simply because the idea of standing up in front of people for HOURS and having their attention ALL ON ME was truly horrible. My teaching experience taught me...yeah, I was right. I still hate it :P

I also have done some tours as part of my work, and they are far less scary than teaching, but still I get nervous.

And then at my bro's wedding a month or so ago, I did a little speech. Surprisingly that went pretty well. Or maybe not so surprising, considering the help I had from my friend wine :)

Robert Guthrie said...

I hate speaking extemporaneously in public, but if I get to prepare, all's well. Just like in writing.

Talei said...

I can be painfully shy, I was as a kid but eventually I had to get up and speak. In the universe outside of writing, I do have a little experience in standing up in front of a group of people. Probably, the most was 350 for an awards night last year - and yes my heart was in my throat - but I did it, okay not as good as the MTV girls but still...

Right now though, I've got to focus on finishing my book. ;-)

Melissa said...

I'm an extrovert and completely comfortable being in the center of attention. But I've never been the center of a LARGE crowd so we'll see how that goes....

Lindsay said...

I'm would say I'm not a natural extrovert, but I don't mind talking in public. I think years of presentations at school/university toughened me up a bit. Although I've never had to talk to a huge crowd... that may be a different story. lol.

Terri Tiffany said...

Well, I have never spoken in front of a room of people but will be doing it March 19th at a conference,I am scared to death but I know it is part of my writing career and felt I needed to do it. When your opportunity arises,you will too!

Heidi-"Heidi in Real Life" said...

OMG, you're right--my ears are turning bright red even thinking of public speaking!! I'm an extrovert that likes to choose my own spotlight, with whom and under what circumstances. If I had to get up in Oscar stadium, I'd cry and pee my pants. ;-)

Liza said...

I prefer the introvert side of me, but know that I can stand up in front of a crowd if I need to, since I used to fairly regularly. When the time comes, I'll just have to remember that!

Joanne said...

I think what makes all the difference is when we speak about something we love, like our craft. We bring a certain authority to the podium at that point, which feels like, and comes across as confidence.

Kenda said...

I'm more of an introvert, too, though I have spoken in front of a few groups through the years. I agree with Joanne--the difference is in our subject matter. If we are talking about something near and dear to our hearts, it's more like we're talking to friends and we want to introduce them to something neat. Our enthusiasm will come across.

At least I hope so--when the day comes to talk to others about my book :-)

Aubrie said...

I hate public speaking. I thought about what it would be like to get up there myself and it scared me as well!

Colene Murphy said...

I have nightmares about public speaking!! Ughhh. I hope that does go away with practice but it never did in school when we did reports and stuff so I donno...I have a charming shade of embarrassment-red I turn, no matter what. It's. HORRIBLE. But inevitable, if we want to accomplish those dreams. Can't always be sugar and flowers, right?

HowLynnTime said...

Honestly, I think there is some sort of public speaking gene. My grandfather could speak and was greatly wanted by other engineers for years. My own son (genetic carbon of granddad) Popped up to give an eloquent congratulations speech at 9. I can do it and so can my daughter - we both get butterflies - we both do it anyway. Eventually it becomes a little fun - even if you still don't want to jump up and do it.

If you write - they assume your mouth works too - and they will expect you to speak from time to time. Take the class - rabid fear of it won't magicly go away cause you got the 'famous' stamp on your life-card.

And this sounds just horrible - but you never know when it's going to be your turn to speak at a funeral - the last thing you want going on at that time - is it to be your first try at public speaking - so don't use the I might not ever need it excuse.

Remember how YOU feel the next time you find a bad public speaker - is it terror making him so dull? what can you do as an audience member to help?
Eye contact, smile like you enjoy it - ask a question or two - sometimes that's all they need to kick it into the fun informative speech they intended it to be.

Lol - bungee jumping is fun too - grin

Jai Joshi said...

It's been years since I was able to watch the Oscars with a straight face. The whole thing is just so over the top, so self-important. I can't understand how they take themselves so seriously.

Don't get me wrong, I'm always interested in hearing who won and I'm happy if the person I thought should win does but I can't watch the show.

Jai

nutschell said...

When we were younger, my friends and I would go up on an imaginary stage and wave our little waves and pretend like we had won an academy award. Our speech always began with "I would like to thank..."
I was shy when I was younger, but because of my high school's rigorous training (we had a class called "Speech" in our second year, and they would have us enunciate and pronounce words and deliver many speeches) i learned to overcome my speech anxiety. :)

Talli Roland said...

Definitely more comfortable on my own, but I can deal with large groups of people -- for a limited period of time. I find it so tiring if it's for a long time.

Claudia Del Balso said...

I'm definitely an extrovert. However, when I had to take a speech class in college (it was a core course) I was so nervous. I ended up getting a "B" in the class, which wasn't bad considering I hardly spoke ;) But now that I teach adults and I have to stand in front of my students, it doesn't bother me at all. I think you get comfortable with practice and age ;)

jbchicoine said...

I am definitely an introvert, but I have learned how to be a moderately proficient public speaker, though I have to say, I dislike every moment of it...fortunately, I just don't picture myself ever being called upon to speak about what I've written (that's my happy place)...

Margaret said...

Just hand me the microphone already. It is pathetic how much I love public speaking. Networking, mingling. That's hard. But give me an audience where I am in control and I'm in heaven.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Introvert! And so far not had to speak in public.

CherylAnne Ham said...

Just reading this post about public speaking gave me anxiety! Ugh.

Lots of things really freak me out and speaking in front of a crowd--even a small one--is at the top of the list.

I've promised myself not to turn down any good opportunity because of fear. It empowers me to know that I can, and will, do those things in spite of my fear.

Kari Marie said...

I love the Oscars. I'm horribly shy though. I can only manage a speech when I don't care whether the audience likes me or not (which is rare). At the oscars I would giggle hysterically and slip and fall in my own pool of swear as I walk off the stage.

Michael Offutt said...

There's a delicious irony in the fact that you are blogging about public speaking at the Oscars, and the film that won Best Picture (The King's Speech) is about the trials of King George and his stammering and how it affected his public speaking.

alexia said...

I am an introvert, but I can half fake it if I need to. And if you get published, you need to. Or so they say :)

Just remember if you get published, the people attending these events will be in awe of you, and you can create this whole new persona for yourself. The Author! Literary Rockstar.

Theresa Milstein said...

I'm a teacher, so I can handle the spotlight. But I'm not thrilled to be the center of attention in other situations.

Lisa Gail Green said...

I'm sure you'll be able to handle it if and when it happens. After all you'll no doubt be speaking about something you are passionate about. I, on the other hand, am a ham I'm afraid. Probably that nasty theater background stuff... but even theater pros get nervous. It's all in how you deal with those nerves.

Rachna Chhabria said...

I dread public speaking. But now that I have started teaching creative writing from last year in college, I am slowly shedding my fear of speaking in public. But its still there, hasn't gone away completely.

Hope your sister's dream for you comes true.

Lisa Potts said...

I can totally relate to your post. I've had the same thoughts about speaking in public. IF I'm ever in that position because of something I've written, I will just have to get through it...and try not to think too much about it beforehand.

Tamara Narayan said...

I'm a bad introvert, but after teaching for nine years, I can handle getting up in front of a crowd. My stomach is in knots beforehand and I feel ready to toss my cookies, but once I open up my mouth, I can become a bit of a ham onstage. It's wierd. But I would always memorize my presentation or lecture and practice it over and over to help my nerves.

Plamena Schmidt said...

That is one of my big concerns too! I have trouble public speaking--I get all nervous. I don't mean to, I just do. Ugh, I hope I get over it if I need to present a book or something. Or! I hope I'm so excite and into my book, that the whole anxiety thing doesn't happen.