Do you ever have one of those moments where you’re pretty sure you behaved so mortifyingly badly that you can never go outside and associate with people ever again? I get that feeling regularly. I used to handle this feeling by being withdrawn until one day, approximately 13 years ago, a fellow teacher whom I considered to be a mentor said, “teaching is just like a performance, you just go in there and act the part.”
This concept was revolutionary to me and I have since applied it to every new social situation in order to make things easier. I of course use the common strategies of trying to go to places not in peak serving hours and scoping the joint before going but you can’t always do that. However, you can pretty much always put a performance on.
My performance has become so effective that most people think I’m an extrovert. Yes, me who has to go have a lie down after social interactions is thought of as an extrovert. The only people I have found I can’t fool are writers. I remember being in a class a few years back with a guy for about an hour when he said something then finished by pointing at me and said, “except for you, you’re a classic introvert.” He’d nailed me. I was stunned. At the end of the class I asked him how he knew, he simply said, “I’m a writer, we’re trained to see everything not just the surface. Come on, do you honestly think you’d fool you?”
He was so right. I don’t fool me, hence I have these little micro tells that writers tend to pick up on because they’re always looking at the unique and different as well as the normal. They want to examine people’s “ticks” as Kate Forsyth calls them, in order to utilise them in their work. I do the same thing. I’ve now almost come to use myself as a litmus test on how good a writer other students are. Where they are on their writing journey. Can they pick me? Do they see what a fraud I am?
Unfortunately it makes me even more nervous when speaking to authors. Which I do because I love reading, I love writing, I love the Australian book industry. I’m a massive fan. So from time to time I calm myself down with tons of chamomile tea and throw myself at authors. Sometimes with disastrous results…
… sometimes with results so disastrous that I play them over and over in my mind until I don’t know what is real and what is anxiety anymore. I currently have my husband in stitches after I recounted my last socially awkward encounter with people from the writing world to him. He can’t even look at me without laughing. I saw him several hours after the encounter so the exact details had blurred into a haze of horror and the possibly imagined by the time I spoke to him. Let me share my horror story so that you may feel my horror and perhaps feel better, “well at least I wasn’t as socially appalling as Robin today.”
Okay, so I saw Toni Jordan. The Toni Jordan. Looks like she ate sunshine for breakfast because she literally glows, internationally published, beacon of goodness, Toni Jordan. So what did I do. I ran at her threw my arms around her divine personhood, hugged her and told her I loved her, I loved her socks, and I follow her on twitter and loved her work on the Book Club ABC. Yep, I hugged her, told her I cyberstalked her, and forgot to mention I love her books. Oh but wait, it gets worse.
Toni is actually good enough to not ring the police on the spot and call for an AVO and speaks to me like I’m one of the regular people and not a steaming hot mess of etiquette doom. She even tells me that she loves my recaps. I melt. I’m in some sort of magic love daze. I lose my already partially lost mind even further. You might be thinking at this point that Toni Jordan’s generous nature has saved this moment and be just as in love with her right now as I am. Hold onto that love, but know that this is me that we’re talking about so things can always get worse. I’m a nightmare of self destruction.
I see Michael Williams walking past with Marieke Hardy, yes, the Michael and the Marieke. I’m not sure exactly what happened next but this is what it has developed into in my brain… Although I hope my imagination has run away from me:
I exclaim to Toni Jordan, “Oh my god, It’s Michael Williams, do you mind if I go throw myself at him.” I don’t wait for an answer, the world slows down, I palm Toni away in some sort of gridiron defensive move, step towards Michael yelling, “Mmmmiiiccchhhhaaaaeeerlllll Iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii LLLLLLLLLLOOOOOOOOOOVVVVVVVVEEEEE YYYYYYOOOOOUUUUU!!!!!” It’s slow motion so read that in a deep voice. Michael turns slowly and looks in surprise. Marieke looks at me as if she has looked into my soul and seen just how strange I really am and recoils a little. Perhaps my ungraceful approach gave me away. The world than speeds up and I’m talking to Michael and Marieke is gone, I can only assume I grabbed her by the hair and ripped her away like some sort of wilder-savage. Her and Toni are probably groaning on the ground. I am a monster! How else could she have disappeared. I say to Michael, “I-love-you-so-much-and-respect-you-thank-you-so-much-for-saying-kind-things-about-my-work-on-PND-on-twitter.” I then hand him a manuscript on PND and run screaming into the afternoon. Yep. That happened.
Why did I have a manuscript with me? Because I’m an overthinker. Michael Williams had written two tweets to me about a blog entry I wrote on PND. They meant the world to me. I decided I must do something to express my gratitude. I knew he was going to be at that same place I was so I began baking a cake. Yes, I’m like some weird 1950s housewife. Then I thought, “Oh my god, what if he’s allergic to something in the cake and I kill him? I have to give him something that won’t kill him. I know, he liked that blog post, I’ll give him the novella that is an extension of that blog post.” And so I did that. Pulled it off in the most socially horrendous way possible and in retrospect, as I sit gorging myself on that cake I’d baked, a bit like a kid drawing a picture of Emma Watson and handing it to her at a Wiggles concert. I’m the writer equivalent of an overly enthusiastic three year old. Thankfully this cake is delicious. It makes me feel slightly better.
So, I want you to go about your day with confidence and pride, because no matter what you do, you’ll come off better than a 36 year old sharing stick figure art.