People are gathering in the hall. Books surround them. I sit at my table, anxiously awaiting someone to approach me, someone to show even a moniker of interest in what I’ve wrote, the covers I designed, or even me. Do I look like an interesting enough person to talk to? Or am I just another bald, middle-aged, white guy in the long list of old white guy writers? Would talking to me offer them anything?
I try to spark a little interest in me by offering a glimpse into subtle interests of mine via overt means. An old typewriter, either an old 1920’s Royal or a 1930’s Underwood, sits on the desk while I try to display my attempt at wit via really-not-so-clever t-shirt.
Those who fall for the bait encounter someone that loves books, loves writing, yet struggles to have a meaningful interaction once the interaction happens. They also find a writer who often finds it difficult to talk about himself or his writing in a humble, encouraging way. This is what happened to me in the past and in eleven days from my writing this will happen again.
Being someone with social anxiety, it is easy for me to get wrapped up in my own crap, really as it is with anyone. Over compensating is often a trait that I do when trying to impress someone. And often, I feel that I have to impress someone as a way to cope with the fact that I am screaming on the inside, afraid that the person I am talking to won’t find me interesting, much less even like me.
Getting to these events in and of itself is a major feat for me. Normally when confronted with any social situation, my baseline instinct is avoidance. When I overcome the flight impulse, I then am confronted with a need to either go overly bombastic or to sheepishly hide in the corner. Apparently, there are a lot of writers also like this, although I don’t know many personally other than myself. It’s what makes me and others like me terrible salesmen.
Confidence would certainly help, but though there is a distinct difference between confidence and narcissism, being socially anxious makes any move towards confidence confused with the possibility of the dark side of the ego coin. In other words, I fear that any attempt at confidence will be taken as narcissism instead.
But I have been getting better at it. At least I am better at faking my own confident engagement enough to get me past the fight or flight of my fears. I’ve also been getting better at not going overboard, shutting up sooner (before inserting foot), and listening, focusing on what someone is saying rather than what is my closest escape route.
It will take time, but I am getting there. Maybe this year will be better because of the work I’ve done. I’ll see soon enough.