Dorian gently, almost tiptoed, into the crowded night lounge. She took each step with precision, giving more time than necessary between each stride. She stood perfectly erect with her head held high. She pushed her shoulders backward, giving her back a question mark-like arch. The way she flung her dark, shoulder length hair as she scanned the room, exuded comfort and confidence. Her hand sat perfectly poised on her thrust right hip. Her left leg, mounted atop a five-inch stiletto heel, was bent at the knee with a defiant arc. She stood still by the door as if she was awaiting a formal invitation to walk inside. A tall slender man, one of the performing artists, gently brushed her arm as he hurriedly scooted himself and his equipment through the narrow archway of the lounge’s entrance.
“Sorry”, he said dismissively without giving Dorian more than a second’s glance.
Had he looked closer, to examine the spicy, but cool woman before him, perhaps he would have noticed the way her chest rose and fell with a controlled rhythm as she took slow, deep breaths to calm her rattled nerves. He may have observed her right hand as it clenched and unclenched her side or her left hand as her fingers did a dance of frantic fidgeting. He may have offered assistance had he been aware that her knees were threatening to buckle under her weight and her glands were threatening embarrassing rolls of sweat down her forehead, through her palms, and under her arms. But he didn’t notice anything at all.
“No problem”, Dorian muttered to his back as he disappeared into the crowd.
It was Friday night and the Lyrical Lounge was jumping. Flo, a local spoken word artist with a heavy baritone and dark chocolate skin, was gracing the mic with his powerful words of love, lust, and broken hearts. When his performance was over, the crowd erupted in a mix of thunderous applause and sharp finger snapping. It was good. Dorian knew it; she had heard him spit before. She stumbled a little to the right as someone pushed past her to get through the entrance and into the congested, dimly lit lounge.
The doorman collecting the ten dollar entrance fee lightly tapped Dorian on the shoulder, “Excuse me, you’ll have to clear this entry way. People are trying to get in.” He didn’t try to hide the annoyance in his tone.
Dorian awkwardly shuffled a little more to the right. She eyed the crowd ahead of her with apprehension. Then she slightly whispered to herself, “Come on, come on. Just do it. What’s the big deal?”
Her right foot moved forward, but then it quickly slid back into place beside her left.
This is ridiculous, she thought. I’m not doing the damn hockey pokey. Just go!
She smoothly wiped the sweat from her clammy palms on the sides of her dress and swallowed the lump that was blocking her air passage. She strolled (coolly she hoped) over to the other side of the tight room, heading towards the bar. Once she reached the bar, she nervously tapped her manicured nails on the counter for a few moments.
You can do this, she told herself. If you can’t do it now, you never will.
Before she could make time to talk herself out of doing what she knew she had to do, she swiftly whipped around to face the two chatting women sitting in the bar stools next to her. She affixed a friendly smile to her face, stuck out her hand, and said, “Hi, I’m Dorian Knight a new author of Dramatic Fiction. If you have a moment, I’d like to tell you about my debut novel.”
To some, the scenario portrayed in this short story may seem ridiculous, but it is a reality for a lot of writers. Although this scene has been somewhat exaggerated for dramatic effect, many writers (including myself) are introverts. Given the choice, we’d rather sit at home immersed in the comfort of familiarity rather than venture out to the realm of uncertainty where the “strangers” roam. When I try to explain my feelings of social inhibition to others, I rarely get an agreeing nod or any confirmation of understanding. “It’s easy”, they often say, “Just walk up to someone and start talking.” Well, guess what: that sounds scary as hell to me! It may be insecurity, I’m not sure, but it certainly is NOT easy for me to just walk up to someone and start a conversation. In meeting more people in the literary world, I am finding that I am not alone in feeling this way. I’ve learned that a lot of writers feel my pain.
Because of my little problem, I feared that I would not have the courage, social skill, or level of aggressiveness it takes to market my book and get it into readers’ hands. Although it is much easier for me to approach strangers and talk about my book than it would be for something else I am not nearly as passionate about, it was still no easy task. But, I have to do what’s necessary to be successful right? I remembered the words of Sylvia Hubbard, the founder of the Motown Writers Network (amongst other things), “Writers are introverts acting like extroverts”. Oh so that’s what I have to do? Fake it until I make it huh? No one would know I was faking except me right? Right! So that’s what I did. I bit the bullet, clenched my stomach to calm the butterflies, and just went for it.
“Hi I’m Monique D. Mensah, a new author from the Detroit area. Do you like to read?” That was my “line”. Although contrived, it worked. It was simple and friendly. As long as I had a script, I could do it with a bit more ease. I kept this act up for a couple of weeks, until…it became natural! That’s right, I’m taking you back to pre-school on this one: Practice makes perfect. So get to practicing. Come up with a personable introduction, slap on a smile, and stick to it. Is this your passion or not? Do you want it enough to push past your fears and go for it? Sure you do. Try it and you may be surprised at the response you receive. Soon enough, it will become almost natural, almost. Turn the introvert inside out.