Let’s have a heart-to-heart today:
When I was 19-20 years old, I suffered from social anxiety. It changed after a class with miss Li (surname changed). She moved from China to Poland, and taught Chinese… using Polish. We were all very impressed by her Polish skills. One day, someone (not me) told her that they didn’t have courage to make phone calls.
“Why?” She asked, “You all speak Polish. My Polish is just so-so, but I am not afraid of anything. I always use the phone to order pizza.”
‘She’s so brave,’ I thought to myself and decided I wouldn’t have social anxiety anymore. Of course, I still had it, but I endured. I told myself: “It’s nothing. I’m not in danger. It’s just a social situation. I will do my best and it’s enough”. Guess what – it helped. I moved to China. I did order pizza on the phone. Now I don’t have social anxiety anymore.
Why I am telling you this story: as an author, you will be required to interact with different people. Not only editors, readers, reviewers and writing teachers. But also sponsors and publishers. Not reaching out to important people, who have the power to push your career forward, puts you in a disagvantaged place. If you really want to get your name out there as an author, you cannot let shyness and social anxiety stop you.
I have designed 10 questions which will help you verify if and how much social anxiety is dwindling your current potential:
- Have you come out as a writer to the people who might be able to help you? (e.g. your boss has a friend with a publishing house, however you keep silent about your writing endeavors).
- Have you reached out to other successful authors to ask what are their ways? (aka “Are you trying to reinvent the wheel?”)
- Do you censor your writing, afraid that friends or family might not like what really is going around your head?
- Do you send your writing to others, or do you have a million excuses why it’s not a good idea?
- Do you send your work to 10 publishers, instead of 50, because “you want to be over it as soon as possible”?
- Are you proud of your presentation skills? How do you feel speaking in front of crowds? Are you really ready for dealing with journalists, fans, investors and other people once your book becomes a bestseller?
- Do you use the word “introvert” as an excuse not to interact with people?
- If you are not happy with something (e.g. unfair publishing contract or uninteresting cover design) are you able to talk about it openly?
- Do you seek jobs that require writing (e.g. copywriting, newspaper work etc.)? Or do you feel “unqualified” and afraid to have your skills tested?
- Does social anxiety cause distress in other areas of your life?
I know that dealing with social anxiety is not easy. However; if you realize that social anxiety is robbing you of opportunities as an author, this should be another motivation for you to acknowledge the problem and commit to recovery.