Yes, I’m shy.
Lots of people find that hard to believe but it’s true. When I was in high school my wife had to invite ME out. I don’t order pizza, don’t take things back to the store and in a restaurant if they serve me a bad meal I won’t complain, I just won’t go back.
Then in college I had a speech teacher take me in hand and help me develop a public persona, and in that mode THAT GUY could do the things I couldn’t do. Johnny Carson was the same way, terribly shy off camera, when he puffed out his chest and got into character he was the ultimate entertainer.
I discovered that it is very common among writers as they tend to be people who are more comfortable expressing themselves in writing than verbally. Then I discovered that outgoing people often needed to develop such a persona as well, not because they were shy, but in order to understand how they needed to present themselves as professional writers. We all play different roles in our lives depending on where we are and what we are doing. It just makes sense that we would give thought to how we would present ourselves in a professional writing situation.
I’ve been leading a course on this for a lot of years now and people who have gone through it tell me it really helped them. I know it helped me. Some people actually change and become more outgoing, but my nature is still shy, it is just easier after all of these years to slip into my professional persona. If I’m not in it I am more likely to be sitting quietly on the sidelines, just watching what is going on. I just finished leading the course at a conference and at present am doing it as a month long online course for the American Christian Fiction Writers.
Sometimes it is useful to actually dress different to make the switch easier. One woman told me she bought a set of black, sexy underwear that she only wore when she was in writer mode to help her made the switch. I told her that was too much information but I hoped she was letting her husband in on it.
As for me I like to dress western, but I dress a little more so when I am in character. George Bush sent me some sort of stimulus check and I used it to buy a Gold Edition Stetson. I only wear it for special occasions or when I am being the writer or agent. How could a guy not be confident under a hat like that? People have gotten to the point where they ask me where the hat is if they come into a meeting and I don’t have it on.
I was talking to a group of my clients online, however, and they pointed out that I did the hat, belt buckle, boots and a nice western jacket as my ‘brand’ but then I carried a normal briefcase. “It doesn’t work,” they said, “you need to throw saddlebags over your shoulder, not carry a briefcase.” At one conference I attended a guy that was there to do a Will Rogers impersonation carried saddlebags over his shoulder, maybe they have something there. I ordered a pair and we’ll see how that goes.
I’m on a mission to help all fellow shy writers learn to step beyond their limitations.