Used to be writers could sit in a cabin Thoreau-style and just write. Not so much anymore.
After the long hours in the cave, where often the writer’s best friends are the characters in her novel, it’s time to emerge and share those characters with the world. That involves the real people.
When I first started attending Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators events about eight years ago, I marveled at the skill of the authors who got up to speak in the keynotes or in workshops. Public speaking seemed counterintuitive to a writer’s sensibilities for some reason. Did Hemingway get up and speak on stage? Or wasn’t he usually in a pub or coffee shop somewhere chatting with other writer friends? In my mind, it was always the latter.
I knew I would have to work on that part of writing–the speaking part. I knew it was important to learn how to tell stories on stage just like I had shared Mr. Greenskin stories with my second graders on the carpet in a circle after lunch. I wondered how I could transport that joy my 8 year olds felt, and the comfort level I had making up those stories on the fly, to the stage. I wondered if I could.
But like much rest of the population, I’d rather be burnt alive by fire then get on a stage and speak. I joined Toastmasters several years ago to get over that. At a speaking conference several weeks ago, the guy putting it on said he still gets nervous every time he starts even though he has spoken on thousands of occasions at this point. Some do, some don’t. Some writers I know write their acceptance speeches for their Pulitzer Prize winners before they ever write the books and can’t wait to have the stage.
For me, it was a challenge I would face. I set a goal to let go of the resistance because I knew what I had to say was important. I knew I was put on this earth to share stories that would help others along their path, and that sharing would inevitably involve speaking in front of large groups of people.
For the past week, in my dreams I have been speaking at conferences, in classrooms, in corporations. When this happens while I sleep, I know what’s coming.
And it’s not the cave.