Yes, this past weekend was Odyssey Con. It was also the first year I had any hand in the organization of it. 2013 also marked the first year I sat in on panels. Not a strange thing for Odyssey Con, as fan-run panels are common, but a big thing for me. I have never sat in on a panel before. In fact, other than my time as a trainer at my last job (over 13 years ago) I tend not to do much in the way of public speaking. Add this to the collection of conferences I have attended sitting in the audience listening to my favorite authors speak, and you’ll get the idea as to why this was off-putting.
I had told people, “Come to my panel and watch me choke at public speaking!” And while everyone laughed, I didn’t feel it was that far from the truth. I was convincing myself that I really could manage it. Not 100%, but there is that voice writers get now and again that will whisper “you suck at this” in our ears as we’re writing. And by whisper, I mean shout rather loudly. And by in our ears, I of course mean over a bull horn.
This came up as I watched a video from MeekaKitty, a YouTuber/young lady who was responding to a video with the topic On Being Ugly. The point of the original video was it was okay to just be okay. It was about being comfortable with your lack of physical beauty. In general. MeekaKitty on the other hand looked into the lack of empathy in the comments. In short, it is not up to us to make the person in the original video “all better.” But our discomfort with the situation and feelings lead us to say, “you’re not ugly” as opposed to just listening to their feelings. To an extent I understand that.
Partially when I claim I would choke while public speaking, it is because I very well could. It had been decades since I have done anything close to comedy, acting, singing or even the radio show I had back in college. The most public speaking I do is when I run our bi-weekly Dungeons and Dragons game at my place. Shouting at the Internet in my reviews or into Twitter doesn’t count.
Furthermore, I am a gamer geek. And not the “pew-pew” kind that a lot of the more mainstream gamers are these days. I’m a full on Dungeons and Dragons gaming geek. (You never go full on gamer geek.) And while not all the stereotypes are true, there is a bit of social awkwardness in many of us. More than once I have been at a conference and my wife will tell me to go say hello to someone, or introduce myself only to get the reply “maybe later.”
Partially this stems from doing escort duty at gaming conventions in the past. I was always of the mind you don’t interrupt or bother the people that are there for promotion. You stand invisible. (Let’s not even get into the psychological implications of that.) The rest has to do with being just enough off the norm, I like to get a “read of the room” before I out myself.
Realistically, posting to Twitter that I am trying to convince my wife to come home early and go to the Wayland concert with me is one thing. (The band did say she HAD to come home early to make the show. She also decided I could handle it on my own – weeknight and all.) Going up to the merch table after the show and asking them to sign the EP for Welcome to My Head because I gave the one I picked up at the Dane County Fair to Kevin Hearne this past weekend is a complete other can of worms.
Seriously, I have seen this band in concert twice. I am using one of their songs for the dybbuk story’s playlist. On twitter I have communicated with them directly (assuming it is a band member who is doing the social networking). Still walking up and saying “hey” just isn’t in my usual wheelhouse. Had it clicked during the pre-NYE event that it was Dean from the band we were in the elevator with, I still might not have introduced myself. Also, what band wouldn’t want to know that I gave a signed copy of their EP to a New York Times bestselling author?
At the same time, I think it is perfectly fine to retreat once in a while. Life is balance, and sometimes I need to have some peace. Not to mention my freakish hearing (side effect of letting a doctor play with my spinal cord) makes talking in a bar or party type setting difficult. Waiting for some quiet to introduce myself, once I am comfortable, is just fine.
We all have our quirks. Some we can change, some we accept.
Public speaking is really not a problem for me as I don’t get stage fright. I don’t really care if I make a fool of myself in front of people. Meeting an author at the airport and playing Morgan Freeman to their Jessica Tandy, much less so. Which is why it meant so much to me that I do it. It helped that the author was one I have read and is a member of the League of Reluctant Adults. I figured if I could meet Mark Henry, Jaye Wells and Diana Rowland and make it out alive, Kevin Hearne was a safe bet.
In short, accepting your quirks and working past them is not the same as feeling sorry for yourself. For some people it is accepting you’re not attractive in the eyes of the world at large. That doesn’t mean you hide in a cave with a bag over your head. For others it means knowing you’ll never be skinny, but always striving for healthy. And for those like me, it means knowing you’re not overly social 100% of the time, but knowing you can bury the doubt and work forward no matter what. Ironically also an awesome skill to have when writing.
You see, I knew I’d bring this full circle back to the topic of writing.
And I’ll leave you all with the song I am heading out to get the EP of later tonight. My protagonist’s theme song for book 2 of my Honkytonk Monster Hunter series.