Thursday, February 13, 2014

Guest Post: Author Rob White On Faking It ‘Till You Make It.

I’m an introvert. If you’re a writer – or any kind of artist, really – I bet you dollars to donuts you’re an introvert too, or at least have some ingrained introvert tendencies. Can’t speak for everyone but growing up I found my mental and creative stimulation through fantasy rather than through social interaction. I was the kid swinging the wooden sword in the woods at invisible goblins. I was the kid drawing monsters in the back of class instead of passing notes to cute girls. I was also the kid who had more than one epic fantasy tale mapped out in my brain before the age of 18. As an adult who allowed himself to believe that he could be a “real writer” (I’m one of those guys who says that being a real writer is about intention rather than measurable results) I finally began to share those fantasies with the world. If another lonely kid can gain the same thrill from my stories as I gained from Tolkien or Stephen King or Final Fantasy then I’d say all these hours in front of a keyboard or notepad covered in chicken scratch have been worth it.

Buuuut - and it’s a big but and I cannot lie – being a writer who releases his/her work to the public means that an introvert suddenly has to develop skills usually associated with that mysterious and alien race known as extroverts. We have to smile and greet passersby in hopes that they’ll buy our book (and therefore buy us lunch). We have to say hey, hi and how are you to dozens of names and faces online and in bookstores in hopes that they’ll carry or review our book. And if we’re really bold and really lucky – or persistent – we’ll get to sit at a table in front of a microphone and tell prospective authors about our experiences and how to get ahead in the business.

If you can’t guess, that’s what I’ll be doing soon as a panelist at Timegate, a Doctor Who and Stargate convention held in Atlanta in May.

I am horrified at the idea of not only being on stage in front of who knows how many people, but being up there in a position of supposed authority about a subject many of my audience members may actually be more experienced than myself at. I could look like a phony. I could look like a fraud. I probably will look like an idiot.

Yet I’m going to do it anyway. Why? Because I’m learning in this tricky, sticky business of being an artist that the only way to get up there, over there, out there and beyond is to carry yourself as if you’re already there. One year at DragonCon I decided to cosplay as the successful writer I wanted to be. I felt damn good that day. Better than the day I wore a Space Cowboy outfit. Better than the day I dressed as the protagonist of ThePull  and got mistaken for Snake Eyes. Better than the time someone thought I was Neil Gaiman. In a way, I’ve been wearing that costume ever since.

So my plan for Timegate is this: load up on caffeine, climb up on that stage and sit down at that table and be my own wise-ass self. The self who makes jokes to empty rooms while he writes alone in his office. The self who yells at the screen when Carl walks backwards away from a zombie and then falls on his ass on The Walking Dead. The self who posts ridiculous non-sequiters on Facebook and then comments on his own post. You know, that guy.

I hope I’ll be entertaining. I hope I won’t appear like I’m talking out of my ass. I’ll either be funny or I’ll be the quiet guy on the panel who says one helpful thing and then lets the experts talk. Or – worst case scenario – I’ll be the guy who says something inaccurate about Season 7 Episode 4 of Doctor Who and gets lynched by a mob of angry Whovians. This is the risk we take in putting ourselves out there, be we introvert or extrovert; and let’s be honest, it’s the extroverts who more often end up with their feet planted firmly in their mouth.

So I’ll fake it and believe that I’ll make it until one day – just maybe – I won’t be faking anymore. With each risk I take, public reading I participate in, story I submit and festival I sell books at I find that I’m faking it just a little bit less. One day, perhaps that guy you see at DragonCon will not be a wanna-be-writer in the costume of a real one, but will in fact just be me.

Maybe it already is.

Rob White is a novelist, a comic book author and a professional dreamer. He makes his home in Athens, Georgia where he revels in the chaos and magic of living in a town full of artists. He is the author of the Pull Series  and a local writing hero as he inspires and assists members of the Athens Writers Association to follow their writing and publication dreams.

You can find Rob on twitter: @robwhitethepull 
on The Pull's Facebook page 
and on his website:

Both book one and book two of The Pull series are on 
The Pull - Book One 
Home is Where the Monsters Are 

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Reading In Public - Eek!

So the Athens Writers Association had their second Writers Read event, and as a good member of the organization, and as a writer who wants to learn how to be comfortable in front of a crowd, I stood up and read some of my writing.

The fear of the stage, while prevalent across people of all backgrounds, professions, and experiences, is pretty common among writers. I guess this makes sense. A lot of writers write to avoid the spotlight, letting their characters be center stage while they work in dark rooms away from the public eye. But to be a "professional" writer, one has to step out of the writing dungeon and in front of crowds - at least occasionally.

So how does one do that? Find an opportunity and throw yourself to the wolves. Okay, so it's not really that bad, although your brain and body might make you feel like it's that bad or worse. Even though I had practiced the hell out of my story (okay, I hadn't memorized it or anything) once I got on that stage the nerves set in and I almost collapsed like a derailed train before I even got the first word out. But I held it together, stumbled a little, and read my piece to the very last painful line before allowing my jiggly legs lead me off the stage and straight to the bathroom were I could shake out my jitters in peace.

One thing that helped was having the writing in hand. To see the words on the page meant I could focus on the paper and not the crowd. Some people will argue that the paper gets in the way and that you should be ballsy enough to face the people who are listening, but I'm not that ballsy - at least not yet. So I hold the paper and even though my eyes are mainly just skimming the print, (since I know the piece almost by heart), it's still gives me a false sense of comfort and helps me make my way through the reading.

Another thing that helped was remembering that at the end of the day, I'm up their to entertain. If I stumble on words, if I stutter (as I can be prone to do when anxious), if I have to pause and regain control of my voice, my breathing, my place in the story - all of that is okay, because I do it all with a smile on my face. Perhaps it's an apologetic smile, but I know that what words do flow smoothly are interesting and the ones I fumble will appear more comical or lighthearted if I have a good response to them. If I were to read, stumble, start to swear, and kick my feet, or even apologize each and every time I feel like I've screwed up (and feel is a strong word here because our own perception of how something is going is very different than the listeners/viewers perception) then the reader will be put off, offended, or "over it" long before I'm finished. If I pause and smile and continue on, they will bear with me. Since I am kind to myself when I make mistakes, they will feel compelled to be kind as well. And, frankly, if they even noticed the mistakes I make, then they're going to be kind because they came to hear people read they didn't come to heckle people. If they want to complain they'll do it after the reading is over and hopefully out of my earshot. ;)

Long story short, I taped myself reading my piece (which I'm sharing here) since I was a bit discouraged with how shaky I got on stage. This way I can remember it as something I read well, instead of something I was reading while feeling like I was experiencing one of the levels of hell - you know the one where your legs are jelly, your hands won't stop shaking, your vocal cords won't stop wobbling, you're sure you're either too loud or too quiet, and the certainty that everyone thinks you're the dumbest moron who ever spoke takes over all logical thought.