Get over yourself

Yesterday I made a complete fool of myself. In public. In front of people whose good opinion I deeply desire and those I am supposed to be helping.#epicfail

I had to take part in a mock interview with a much-respected colleague as a demo for newer MA students. I was simply supposed to speak about my work-in-progress.

I really struggle to tell a story in mid-field, as it were. I can give you the grand sweeping overview – girl with magical powers has to choose between saving her mother or saving her city – or the close-up detail – Georgiana plays knucklebones with her friends the Blewcoat Boys. Anything inbetween I still find appallingly difficult. Before I’ve even opened my lips, what I have to say sounds so lame, I just dry up. And when I do venture something, it’s just plain wrong: not what I was asked to do.

So humiliating.

Those around me could not have been more supportive. No-one tried to make me feel pathetic – I was surrounded by encouragement.

But I still couldn’t do it.

Having been told it was both easy and an essential skill didn’t really help. Nor having it demonstrated with admirable skill by others. Currently, I feel an utter failure with no future in writing.

I know. Ridiculous. But it is how I feel amongst the tears.

But I’m still carrying on. I watch my friends stream ahead of me with book deals and agents and distinctions and just plain skill. I just crawl a bit further.

Give me a wave when you pass.


16 thoughts on “Get over yourself

  1. Ugh, Philippa. *massive hugs* I understand how you feel, in part, because I had something slightly similar on a minor scale happen to me yesterday playing the piano – I didn’t mess up badly and there weren’t many people there so it was fine, but it’s just that feeling of knowing you could have done it better, isn’t it? I know this isn’t much consolation, but I think with public performance of any kind you’re always going to get that happening to you at least once, and it’s just – experience, I guess. It’s just a horrible thing to happen. And I think actually that summarising any story in a few words is very hard, too – even if I try to describe a book I’ve been reading to someone, I often end up blathering and not making it sound very interesting.
    Please try not to believe that you’re “an utter failure with no future in writing”, though – from what I’ve read of your work I know you’re *not* – and besides, public speaking and writing are two different skills. I know I find it loads easier to express myself through the written word than in person. Holding conversation outside people you know really well can be nerve-wracking in itself, let alone with that on-stage feeling!
    I dunno if it helps, but I remember at the last couple of nights @ Arvon you seemed very confident, reading out your work – I know it was a pre-written thing so that’s totally different, like reading from a script, but it was also your manner when you were pitching it. So I can’t help feeling that this is probably a one-off thing and next time you’ll manage it tons better. 🙂

  2. Don’t be such a numpty. I am a wobbling, inarticulate, dry-mouthed WRECK when I even think about describing what I’m up to. You aren’t alone, and I’m certain you’re doing a hell of a lot more than crawling along. I know this because I listened to you read something last year, and it sent shivers down my spine. I also know this because I read not one but two versions of your first chapter, and both were bloody stonking. Talking about your book is the tiniest part of writing, and something I genuinely wouldn’t worry about – leave that till you’re published and visitnig your first school. Besides which you’re a very engaging speaker – I’d happily sit and listen to you reading a thesaurus, so sod the content!

  3. Correct me if I’m wrong but aren’t writers supposed to be good at writing not public speaking. Talking coherently in front of an audience, whilst an impressive skill, has nothing to do with being a good writer. I think you’re confusing your skill sets. You should crack on with the one you love doing! 😉

  4. Having a writing crisis is obligatory if you are a sane, and self aware creative type ; ) I’m four or is it five weeks in to a mass submission and have heard zip so far. How many more weeks can I pretend everything is fine? I don’t know !
    You are a very talented and tenacious writer Philippa and I’m looking forward to you sending me your new work to read. x x

    • Am I supposed to have writing crises quite so often, though? Thank you for the support though. I value that.

  5. Ouch. That’s a horrible feeling; horrible to have that sort of knock. But what everyone’s said is right: you are a bloody good writer, Philippa. The book chapters were great, and i still remember that piece you read at Arvon as absolutely arresting and beautiful. You’ve got the fundamental thing. And yes, to build a career as a writer you have to learn a lot of periferal things as well. Such as interviews…. To me the important thing is that you’ve had the courage to get out there and do it! Forgive yourself for not doing it perfectly!!! Believe what I’m sure you’ve told every kid you’ve ever taught: you learn from mistakes. you don’t learn when you don’t find the guts to try. So good on you for doing it. Keep going! Don’t curl up and hide in your shell. this is a note from the snail who’s a long way further down the wall…..

    • You are kind, Tracey, and I am glad of your support. Thank you. I will poke my head out of my shell- eventually.

  6. Snap! Had to try and explain my WIP to the group as part of my MA dissertation workshop. Epic fail-it sounded like a rambling, incoherent mess. Still, we must take comfort in the fact that many fabulous novels are very hard to sum up in a paragraph. It is an art…and one that can be learned.

    • Thanks, Gita. I do hope you are correct about learning how to do this – it’s nearly 2 years I’ve been struggling.

  7. Sorry to hear it was such a nightmare Philippa, but I remember your readings and pitch at the West Dean weekends. You’re good. You can do it. Put this behind you and move on, or maybe turn the experience into a short story. Don’t give up.

    • Pete, you are kind. Thank you.
      I am moving on in my own way – Was mich nicht umbringt, macht mich stärker.

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