Alex J. Cavanaugh, and which now has a permanent home at the IWSG site. Every first Wednesday of the month we gather to connect with one another, to share our thoughts and our insecurities, and to offer one another the kind of guidance and reassurance that only another author can provide.
This month I wanted to talk about a challenge I've actually overcome, and the strange sort of way in which it came about.
Late in May I got an unexpected job offer through LinkedIn. They were targeting people in the area with either acting or storytelling experience, who were comfortable in front of a crowd, and who could memorize a script. While the storyteller in me was intrigued, the introvert in me was pretty much completely terrified. Had it not been for the fact that the opportunity was for a walking ghost tour – a subject near-and-dear to my heart – I probably would have outright declined.
Somehow I made it through the interview and the audition, and before long I had my first tour date scheduled. I spent 2 weeks obsessing over that script, trying to cram all the dates and details into my head, and absolutely panicking over how I’d manage the tour. I was literally sick to my stomach at the thought of leading a tour, of having 30 people focused entirely on me, and of dealing with strangers (and hecklers) walking by. What was I thinking? What the heck was I doing? What had I gotten myself into?
It took everything in my power not to call up, cancel my dates, and resign the position. Storyteller or no, I just wasn't ready for that kind of public exposure (and, I was sure, public humiliation).
Come the night of that first tour, I was certain that it would be an absolute disaster. I put on the cloak and the top hat, lit the lantern, led everybody down the street to our first stop . . . and just started telling the stories. You know what? It turns out that a love of storytelling, coupled with a passion for the subject, were more than enough to overcome those fears. Preparing to get out there and stand up in front of those strangers was one of the hardest things I've ever faced, but actually doing it was really quite easy.
I've led half a dozen tours now, and I absolutely love the experience of weaving history and ghost stories together, of watching people become emotionally invested in the tales, and (to be honest) of giving them a good scare once in a while.
That experience has got me thinking a lot about my own writing, and the fear that I've always had of letting stories out of my control, of facing the resulting criticism, or of facing rejection. It’s really not that different from the tours. I love the stories, and I love the act of storytelling. At the end of the day, whether it’s handing off a written document or standing before a tour group, the act of engaging an audience is the same.
Yes, there will always be critics or hecklers, but those aren't the memories I take home with me – instead, it’s the people I've won over, those whose eyes lit up, and those who stop by the shake my hand and say thanks who stick with me. So long as I can treat my stories like I do my tours, I think I'll be OK.