So on Sunday I had to do some public speaking.
On May 8, I was asked to share for about 5 minutes during the message time at my church (with other writers), making the connection between writing and faith. You do the math–almost three months to be anxious about five minutes of my life. So it began; this thing riding around inside of me–the knowledge that I somehow needed to tie my writing to my faith; the knowledge that I’d be standing in front of my congregation and saying “look at me, I wrote a novel.”
I am an introvert. I come from a long line of farm people. Most of my relatives on my dad’s side are still farmers. It’s a solitary job and I think it stays in the genes awhile. So I was both somewhat grateful that I knew three months in advance (“oh, I don’t have to worry about this for awhile”) and also annoyed (“darn–now I have to worry about this for three months”). And then somewhere midsummer came the second email, asking if I had a preferred passage of Scripture to be read in conjunction with my bit of sharing–ooh, now that was hard. My book is a middle grade novel taking place in a future where gardening is illegal. My poetry runs the gamut, but a large portion is garden and seasonally inspired. In the intervening weeks, the biggest connection I could come up with between my faith and my writing was that I had quit a job and was relying on my faith to get me through the dramatic change…and that without the job, I had more time to focus on my writing: not exactly a direct connection.
Long story short: I decided I wanted to begin my time in the front with humor. I also sort of wanted to explain why it would be news to a large percentage of my church family that I had published a novel in April and to a smaller percentage that I had quit my teaching job back in October; why I hadn’t stood up and shared any of this during the weekly sharing times; why some people might think I was unfriendly or standoffish; why I had been absent for a lot of Sundays recently (I was working up the nerve for my pulpit time). An explanation, of sorts, a coming out of my introvertism. My plan was to open by reading from the Introvert Bill of Rights. Then, I would circle around and tie in the Scripture with why I write, and then tie that back to connecting faith and writing. I’d hold my book up once or twice, and end with reading a short poem. Although I’d been listening to Home (Phillip Phillips) all week to gain strength for being an author, blogger, speaker, all I could think of as I sat in the pew, awaiting my turn was “make ’em laugh, make ’em laugh, make ’em laugh.”
As the moment drew closer all I hoped for was to be able to speak over the loudness and tempo of my rapidly beating heart, that my mouth wouldn’t go so dry it would be stuck shut, and that I wouldn’t speak too quickly, like a stuck acceleration pedal. Yes, it would be great if I were interesting, funny, and pleasing to look at, but it wasn’t necessary. Surviving without humiliation would be adequate. (My gosh, even just writing this has put my heart all aflutter!)
I think it went okay. Sure, I forgot one of my one-liners; yes I left out perhaps one of my best faith tie-in sentences. But I didn’t read my notes–I looked out and made eye contact; I saw when people were having difficulty hearing me and leaned in closer. And I did make them laugh (even though I wish it had been louder.) And here’s the funny thing: I got more positive feedback afterwards about my defense of introverts than about anything else. Who knew the whole world (or at least, it seemed, a large portion of my congregation) consider themselves to be introverts? I remain surprised (if not suspicious.)
And now a confession: I’m feeling a warm afterglow; and not just from the fulfilling conversations following the service. I’m actually thinking about the different faces I took in while I was up in front speaking. People with their heads tilted, listening to me. Eager faces focused on what I had to say. Dare I say it, I’m enjoying the moment in retrospect.
What do think–are you an introvert? Do you get energy from being around other people, or is it more draining? What’s your definition?