#1 Fear Banished

098Among my many phobias, I’ve conquered only one. But it’s a biggie. The #1 ranked fear shared by so many: fear of public speaking. I hated presenting in college and high school, suffered through speech classes, shuddered to even introduce myself in a group.

That’s why I’m a writer. I work alone, communicate easily online, love my blog, am addicted to Twitter. The first time I walked into a classroom and realized that I had to actually talk to these people, I wanted to turn around and run back out. What was I thinking?

I was thinking a degree or two in English would be fun: lots of reading and writing, my favorite things. And I could teach, which to me seemed like discussing exactly what I loved. Ha. I was in denial about the “talking” part, and to this day I work really hard to get my students to do most of the talking in class.

xmas 09 001When I published my first book in 2007, I realized I needed to promote it at least a little bit. I had 1,000 copies in my closet that were not going to move themselves.

I arranged to give a two-part talk at my local library, and I only got through it because I took a pill that many actors and musicians use to stop the fear of public performance. I felt energized on that stage with a room full of people who had come to hear me. This was a very different audience from a room full of teenagers forced to read poetry and novels. I liked those talks and wished I could feel that way without meds.

Duty done, I went back to routinely refusing all offers to speak about my books. I read one poem at a writer’s function, because it won a prize and they paid me. When the hostess asked me to read the longer piece, which had also won, I declined. The poem was hard enough!

Just last week I was invited to read a poem or short bit of prose with a group of writers and I declined, automatically. And then I remembered: I wasn’t afraid to speak in pubic anymore. Magically, that fear had evaporated.

It happened at a workshop called “Public Speaking for Writers” facilitated by The Write Concept‘s Linda Anger (pronounced Ahn-Jay). Sounded like something I needed, so I signed on. Right away she had us warming up with partners in preparation to speak in front of the group. I am fine one-on-one but was dreading the going to the front of the room and claiming the floor part.

I walked to my doom, clutching the notes I’d taken. And suddenly, something lifted. I felt it. I was as comfortable as if I were in the last weeks of a semester with a great, engaged class. I was having fun. I loved it.

So, maybe teaching for many years helped, maybe Linda has some kind of magic not in pill form, probably both. I don’t think it was a coincidence that my life-long fear of public speaking vanished at the moment I stood in front of Linda’s DWW workshop. I think, between the two of us, we banished it.