Basically, I'm an introvert. More Type A than B. In school I was so shy the shy kids probably wondered what was wrong with me. On the other hand, once I'm comfortable around someone, or some group, I tend to make up for all those other times when I didn't say much. Hint: if you find yourself wishing I would shut the hell up, it probably means I feel relaxed around you, so much so that it's okay if you tell me to shut up.
As a little boy I used to hide under the kitchen table when company would come. Sometimes, if they stayed long enough, I would come out and talk their ears off, probably making them wish I would crawl back under and leave them alone.
I still get nervous when I speak to groups, but I think (hope) I'm getting better at handling it. The unexpected thing for me was how nervous I get at book signings. Book signings can either be great (you sell a lot of books and meet a lot of readers), or they can be not so great. When I first started, I feared the day I would have a signing and no one show up. Okay, I've done that. That one is out of the way. There may be more, but there will never be that first time again, so it's okay.
Last weekend I had the honor of signing books at an event to benefit a local hospice. It went well. It went great, in fact, and not just because of how many books I sold. It was a great day because of how many people stopped by my table and said good things about my books, or simply told me they had heard good things about them. What made it more special was that I didn't know any of them. Don't get me wrong, I love it when friends, family, and acquaintances tell me they like my books, but when people you don't know tell you, it lets you know your circle of readers is expanding. You sense something of a momentum, and it makes you work harder to build on it.
I'm still an introvert. I've always considered myself a bit odd. Out of my element in almost any crowd, but meeting my readers face to face, signing a book for them, posing for the occasional picture ... those are the parts of being a writer that I never saw coming. For someone who considers himself fairly good with words, I find it hard to encapsulate exactly what that feels like. Readers, by nature, are intelligent and insightful. To have your work -- your creation -- accepted by them, sometimes praised by them, is a very satisfying thing. It's exciting, inspiring, and humbling. Yes, humbling, because you realize that without your readers you would serve no purpose. Because of them, you are able to live a dream.
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