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The Shy Writer (Excerpt)
By C. Hope Clark
July, 2005, 10:46

Your heart races, banging against your ribs, your chest, your throat. Fingers grip a pen to disguise the shake. The other hand flattens on your leg, your side, and your leg again drying the moisture that never disappears. You did not bargain for exhibition when you entered the world of writing. What started as a reclusive haven for your creative muse evolved into a public forum to sell your work. Good work should sell itself, you say…you wish.
You read the lists, blogs and newsletters about making a living at a craft that requires hours of quiet time. We hear the stories about writers who self-publish to hold a book in their hands only to learn that selling it is a whole other issue. How-to books deny that writers are generally a reclusive lot, but face it, the majority of writers love to write, hate to sell, and wish the world would encroach only when beckoned.

I firmly believe that some writers quit writing because of the pageantry of marketing, and as one of those leery about staring at a roomful of people examining my hair and clothes, I felt some sense of salvation necessary. The genuinely shy writer needs relief from such public scrutiny, whether from the masses or the few. After experiencing the agony of publicity and witnessing two-hour book signings where bookstore employees outnumbered the attendees, I decided writers everywhere needed a reprieve.

Other sources advise you how to get over it, as if you wanted to. Shyness is a personal trait, and many people have no desire to overcome an inherent part of their personal composition. Social phobia is an extreme version of shyness, which requires assistance and training to overcome, occasionally with medication. But nervousness and an uncomfortable feeling in front of people is not a character flaw as many would like you to believe. It is as much a part of you as the real color of your hair.

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You are shy. Whether you like it or not, it can be an obstacle at times or even personally painful when you have no choice but to walk in front of people. But you have options – lots of options. You can “color” that shyness with a front of confidence. You can find other avenues to make a presentation without standing alone on a platform. You can create a gimmick that precedes you and makes the sale for you. You have all sorts of colors you can put on that shyness and feel good about yourself. But you always know what your natural hair color is and the type of person you truly are inside.

Yes, good work should sell itself, but in today’s environment, hype and advertising sell products with quality taking a distant third behind packaging and gimmicks. The big publishing houses make contract decisions based upon projected sales, not literary strengths. The shy writer today is at a disadvantage in that regard unless her name is already famous as an actor, CEO, or comedian, but they are not our targeted market. We are concerned with you – the writer.

I won’t lie to you…public speaking can enhance sales. The public wants to see and touch the gifted, and published writers fall within that category. Of course, these writers might be making all of $10,000 a year in royalties, but they published a book and that success is what others see.

For you to sell your writing, you have to decide:

1. Do you want to “get over” your shyness?
2. Do you want to disguise your shyness?
3. Do you want to leave well enough alone and deal from behind the shyness?

None of these decisions is wrong or right. Do not let finances be the only reason for making your choice. There are ways – lots of ways - to manage your shyness if you have grown quite fond of it, and you must decide what makes for a comfortable life for you as a writer. If it is a friend, keep it. If it is a foe, get rid of it.

Read IN's exclusive interview with C. Hope Clark about writing grants and funding.

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Author C. Hope Clark is also editor and founder of, winner of the Writer’s Digest 101 Best Websites for Writers for 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, and 2005. She is published in many writing publications such as The Writer Magazine, Writer’s Digest, ByLine Magazine and Writers Weekly. Learn more at and

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