As an author, book signings come with the territory. You have to do them.
They’re part of the process.
They’re another step in the journey.
Unfortunately, for an introvert like me, a book signing is a little bit like torture. Even the nice, simple ones require a lot of effort on my part.
Recently, I participated in my first real book signing and as expected I was nervous. Really nervous.
As I was ruminating on my obscenely annoying basket of nerves, it struck me as curious that I never felt like this when I lived in NYC. Somehow, in one of the world’s busiest places, I felt less nervous, not more.
That’s when I found myself in the middle of a vivid memory. Suddenly I was back in NY and I saw clearly exactly how this introvert functioned in the city that never sleeps.
Just as I did in my book, I thought it might be fun to put this new memory into a movie scene.
EXTERIOR/NEW YORK CITY/CORNER DELI
YOUNG WOMAN enters through deli door. MAN behind register acknowledges her entrance with a nod. YOUNG WOMAN nods in return.
YOUNG WOMAN continues down narrow aisle to bagel station in back of store.
MAN #2 behind counter greets YOUNG WOMAN with quick, short nod (really just a slight lift of the nose with an even slighter extension of the chin).
(with broken, urban Spanish/English)
…plain bagel, cream cheese?
It’s obvious the YOUNG WOMAN and the man behind the counter have an established rapport. This is not her first visit to the deli.
The bagel order is complete in a matter of seconds. The bagel is wrapped and tossed to the YOUNG WOMAN like a baseball. She catches it easily and makes her way back to the register.
MAN behind register has her total ready before she gets there. She has the money in her hand, ready to pay. MAN takes money, throws it into register and nods again to YOUNG WOMAN. His nod means both “thank you” and “see you tomorrow.” YOUNG WOMAN nods the same in return.
YOUNG WOMAN exits deli.
FADE TO BLACK
Ahhhhhh… so that’s the difference. I used to function in NYC by using a nod as my go-to form of communication. I used to speak without having to speak. I used to be able to go entire days without ever uttering a word.
If you think about it, it makes sense. After all, there are millions of people living in NYC. They come from different places and often speak multiple languages. In that type of situation, sometimes it’s not only easier but better to rely on body language to communicate. You can cross a lot of barriers simply by understanding the importance of a well-placed nod.
If I think about it, it makes sense why I find it so hard to use my words. Words are sometimes hard to form. Words can cause feelings and emotions to get jumbled. Words can cause misunderstanding. I don’t know why speaking audibly makes a difference, but it does. Unfortunately, to me, the sound of my own voice is exhausting.
My book signing was a success. I got lucky. Only truly supportive people showed up. I was showered with nothing but love. Albeit stressful, it ended up being a pleasant experience. The fact that I took a two-hour nap after it was over had nothing to do with anything negative. That’s just what an introvert like me needs in order to recharge. Sometimes a nap is also part of the journey.
This morning I heard someone say this…
“You can choose to be comfortable or you can choose to be courageous, but you can’t choose to be both.”
Forcing myself to do something I would normally be terrified to do is ultimately a good thing. It has been life changing for me to leave the comfort of my cozy cocoon full of nods and step out into the world. It has been necessary to speak out loud my heart and my voice.
Writing a memoir has been a little terrifying. The thought of my next book signing makes my hands shake. But keeping myself hidden away, just because it’s comfortable, would definitely be worse. Even when it feels like torture, it’s better to lay my cards on the table than continue to hold them in my hand.
©2016 Betts Keating. All rights reserved.
Read more of Betts Keating’s story in her memoir, My Movie Memoir Screenplay Novel, available for purchase at amazon.com.
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•photo by Lisa Calloway