I had a rather uncomfortable discussion with my boyfriend this morning. And I’m going to share it, because it isn’t about our personal relationship (sorry if that disappoints you, but really, go watch a soap opera) it was a conversation about my writing career, and what I want out of it. And more importantly, what I’m willing to do to get what I want.
He asked me “why are you afraid to promote yourself?”
And he’s right. I’m terrified. I called a library and asked for information on getting my book into the library system, and they never called back. So I never called them back either. And why? Cause I was terrified.
“What’s the worst they can do?” he asked me. “Say no?”
And really, it isn’t “no” that scares me. I could care less if people tell me no. People have told me no all of my life and I did it anyway. No, it wasn’t the “no” that scared me.
It was the asking.
How do you explain to other people that you are afraid to ask for anything from anyone. Even if I were starving and broke, unable to buy a loaf of bread, I would rather go pick up soda bottles and turn them in for a few measly coins so I could buy a banana, then ever ask another person for anything.
I have a very clear memory of going to my great-grandmothers house with my parents when I was about 6 years old, and asking my mom if I could ask great-gran for some pie. She made said it was rude. You never asked for anything in someone else’s home, except water. If they wanted to give you something that was fine, but you never, EVER, under any circumstances, asked for something.
The other day we were at our friends house, and one of them was heading out the door to get food. I’d mentioned that I was hungry to my boyfriend, but neither of us had cash on us. It was like pulling teeth to get me to just ask our friend, who was offering, to buy me a sandwich. It’s was just $3 for a sandwich, and he was offering, but I was so embarrassed. What the heck is wrong with me?
So today, when Gregg asked me what I was afraid of… He’s right, I need to figure this out.
I don’t have any problem posting on my blog, twitter, or Facebook about a new book. The fact is that I am an author, and anyone who chooses to follow me on social media knows that I’m an author, and should expect me to say something. But I’ve been thinking of handing my book over to the teller at the bank who asked about my book a couple months ago. I’ve gone to the bank several times, book in hand. And I leave it in the car every time, too shy to actually hand it over.
I have this intrinsic belief that I should be seen, and not heard. A belief stemming from years of reinforcement with my parents, and later with a husband who treated me the same way.
And it wasn’t even that they thought “a woman’s place was in the kitchen” or some ridiculous thing like that. It was me. They thought I should be quiet. And that thought was constantly reinforced with criticism and chiding. Sometimes angry yelling to shut up, go away, leave me alone…. Even while other women were encouraged to speak their mind around me. Just not me.
So here I am with this fear of speaking up. Of being heard. And I’m an author. An author who by definition must speak up and be heard. And if I ever want to get my books noticed, to get myself noticed, I have to speak up. I have to be heard.
To be fair… I have improved so much over the last few years. I never would have considered publishing a book of short stories just last year. I never would have considered doing a podcast, but today I am doing yet another one, and I am HAPPY to do it. I speak up. I talk over people to make myself heard sometimes. I tell the guys to shut up and let me talk… and I am happy for it. I enjoy it. It’s worth it.
So why is it still so hard to say “I wrote a book, here it is. Read it if you like.” ?