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Wednesday, August 6, 2014

IWSG - Overcoming Fears and Taking Chances

The Insecure Writer's Support Group is a once-monthly blog hop originated by our very sci-fi ninja, 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.

13 comments:

  1. You really will! Thank you for that bit of inspiration. You didn't let your fear hold you back and your life was better for it.

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  2. Leading ghost tours! Now that is awesome. If you can do that, you can write a book and toss it out into the world.

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  3. What an inspiring story!
    You should be proud of yourself.
    If you overcame that fear, then you can definitely write and publish a book.
    Writer In Transit

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  4. That is so cool! I'm so glad you met that challenge and are loving the job.

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  5. What a great experience! And maybe one day you can write it into a story.
    lucindawhitney.com

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  6. Ghost tours? Sounds totally delightful!

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  7. Bob, that's wonderful. It sounds like an out-of-the-ordinary experience.

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  8. Wow, that sounds like so much fun! Talk about art meeting life. Thanks for sharing your experience.

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  9. Seriously, that has to be one of the coolest jobs in the world :) I'm *sure* I would be as nervous, but as you said, the love of story-telling and passion for the subject would trump the nerves.

    Good on you and congrats :)

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  10. Love this story!! And how it built up your confidence. I've never thought about doing a ghost tour, but now I want to.

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  11. Sounds like this has been an amazing learning experience for you. What fun!! Congratulations and I hope it all spills over to your writing, too.

    Liza@MiddlePassages

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  12. Wow, that is such a great story/experience. So happy you found that you can not just do that but enjoy it as well! And, I can completely see the correlation of writing and sharing. Its absolutely nerve wracking putting yourself and your stories out for others, but sometimes its worth it.

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  13. This is an absolute brilliant post. I'm so happy for you. I bet it does inspire some great writing. I bet you even meet some fantastic characters. How cool is that! I would love to take the tour. I took one once when I visited New Orleans. We toured the graveyards & the garden district and it was so cool and totally creepy. It was a wonderful time and a great memory.

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