Shyness is such a strange affliction. Being shy doesn’t mean you don’t have anything to say, it means you can’t say it.
You can’t open your mouth to talk. You’re like a bottle of champagne with a cork in it, an egg that won’t hatch. You move through life like a spectator, always on the periphery, watching and waiting, but never getting in the ring. You can’t, because you’re too shy.
There’s a reason they say someone is “painfully shy.” It is truly painful to be shy. Suppose there’s a conversation going on and you have a brilliant, witty thought to contribute. As you open your mouth to speak, your throat closes up, your chest constricts, your face flushes and your head feels like it will explode.
Time stands still. The moment is passing, and if you don’t make your witty comment soon, it will be out of context and everyone will look at you like you’re an idiot. You hesitate. The moment passes. It’s too late.
You crawl back in your shell. (The world is not terribly kind to shy persons.)
What is the shy person to do? How can you share your brilliant thoughts, your witty observations and profound views, if you are to shy to talk? The answer, of course, is to write.
Having a job also helps you get over shyness, sort of the way being chased by a grizzly bear helps you overcome your aversion to running. It’s all about survival. Entering the workaday world certainly helped me get over my self-consciousness and learn how to talk to people. In fact, I’m not really shy anymore, although I’ll always be an introvert.
But for the shy person or the introvert, there is no freedom like that which comes from writing. When you finally find your voice in the printed word, it’s like being let out of prison.
Just before my 50th birthday, I went on a mission trip to Tanzania, and it turned my world upside down. Africa has that effect on people–the color, the heat, the energy, the music. I wrote an article about the trip for my church’s newsletter, which I’m sure no one read. When the newsletter came in the mail, I sat down at my kitchen table and read the story several times over, marveling at seeing my own words on a page with a byline. My son reminded me we were supposed to be somewhere. “Hold on just a minute, let me finish reading this,” I told him. ”But Mom, you wrote it,” he replied, puzzled.
It was impossible to explain how it felt to see my writing in print. I had said what I wanted to say, without being interrupted or talked over, and it was magic. I felt powerful.
I got a job at a nonprofit where it was my responsibility to write thank you letters to donors for the director to sign. I wrote each one as if I were Cyrano de Bergerac ghost-writing love letters to Roxane. I wanted the recipients to read those letters and weep. I cried writing them.
Then one fine day, I stumbled upon the blogosphere, that limitless world where anyone and everyone can stake out their own little writing turf. With absolutely no idea what I was doing, I decided to start a blog on WordPress and called it “a million reasons why,” because I had so many ideas that I wanted to write about, I couldn’t possibly be pinned down to just one thing.
I timidly posted a few stories, not knowing anything about sharing them via social media, or getting subscribers, or any of that. I guess I thought people would magically find my blog and fall in love with my writing. But I got nothing. Crickets.
On January 1st, 2012, I wrote a post inspired by Jon Acuff’s “Finish Year” concept, and worked up the nerve to post it to Facebook. I was sick with fear that people would mock me for deigning myself a writer–or worse still, maybe they would ignore me. “Who in the world do you think you are? You’re no writer. How dare you publish your ideas, as if anyone would want to read what you have to say. How dare you.”
But you know what? That’s not what happened at all. People commented on the post, and liked it, and it started quite a lively discussion about goal setting and making resolutions for the New Year. And that’s when I knew that I was a writer.
Are you a shy person, or an introvert? Do you have brilliant thoughts the world needs to hear? Go ahead, shy person. Write your heart out. The world is waiting to hear your voice.
If you wish to be a writer, write. Epictetus
Are you shy or introverted? Have you ever thought about writing? What’s stopping you?