Monday, February 10, 2014

Performance Anxiety for Writers?

Performance Anxiety for Writers?
Missy Tippens

I've been watching the Olympics the last several days, trying to imagine the pressure such young athletes feel as they stand there waiting for the music to start, or the buzzer to sound. I empathize, and my pulse starts to race for them.

Most of us have done it: stood in front of a crowd, palms sweating, heart pounding, throat dry as dust. Or maybe it wasn’t a big crowd. Maybe stage fright kicked in just by sitting at a table with strangers at a conference luncheon. Or coming out of lurkdom to comment on a blog. Or teaching a workshop. Or pitching a story to an editor or agent. Or having lunch with a newly acquired editor or agent for the first time. Or hitting “publish” on a blog post. Or hitting “send” on a manuscript, releasing it out into the contest world or to an editor’s desk. Or facing revisions/edits. Or seeing your published “baby” on a shelf or website, knowing others would read the words you so carefully penned.

Performance Anxiety. It’s not just for singers and dancers and athletes! It can be a problem with writers, too.

WebMD lists these symptoms:

   Racing pulse and rapid breathing
   Dry mouth and tight throat
   Trembling hands, knees, lips, and voice
   Sweaty and cold hands
   Nausea and an uneasy feeling in your stomach
   Vision changes

I would add insomnia, tightness in the your chest, being unable to think straight, inability to act (paralyzed by fear).

photo credit: Crestock/cteconsulting

I have a confession to make. I had insomnia a week ago as I worked on my post for today. I stress each month, wanting to make sure I have something interesting, helpful or inspiring to offer here in Seekerville. In fact, my very first post for this blog talked about worrying over not being funny enough or good enough! (Here’s that post for a laugh.)

I’ve also taught workshops at the Moonlight & Magnolias Conference and the RWA Conference, and have spoken to civic and church groups, all times where I thought my heart would pound right out of my chest and flop onto the podium. I spoke to the women's group at my OWN church, and my poor daughter said she kept trying to breathe for me because I sounded like I couldn't catch my breath. I’ve even taught online workshops where I could hardly sleep from worrying about pleasing participants.


The first time I sent my work to a published author to be critiqued at my local RWA chapter (thank you Ann Howard White!), I was nearly sick and almost burst into tears when she met with me to give feedback.

The first time I had lunch with my each of my editors I was so tongue-tied it’s a wonder I made a lick of sense.

The first time I set up a conference pitch appointment to meet with an agent (Natasha Kern, who I signed with years later!), I ended up cancelling the appointment because I chickened out!

(Note: Ann, Emily, Melissa and Natasha are lovely, caring people. The nervousness of those first meetings was totally from my end!)


I’m not a wimp. I’m not usually a chicken. Though I’m a bit of an introvert, I’m not shy. I can easily talk to strangers at the grocery store or hair salon. My kids get a kick out of how I’ll strike up a conversation with just about anyone. My husband once heard me talking to a woman who had a child about my son’s age and thought she was an old college friend. Yet I had just met her in the checkout line.

But put me in a situation where I feel as if I have to perform, and it’s a totally different ballgame. When it gets down to it, writing is a type of performance. We’re putting our words out there for everyone to read. And depending on what we’re writing, we may even be putting our heart and soul on the page for others to take a look inside us, to know us.

And that can be scary.

I brought some practical tips to help with performance anxiety. But before I go there, I want to take the issue one step further and share what I’ve learned about these fears of mine.

I’m doing a new Bible study right now, and we’re using FiveThings God Uses to Grow Your Faith, by Andy Stanley (I love his books and videos!). Something he said in the introductory video really hit me in regard to my issue. Andy said (and these quotes are just taken from my notes and aren't exact):

Every healthy relationship is built on trust. The relationship break between God and man happened over trust. Jesus’ message is: put your trust in Me to reestablish relationship. God is wooing us to trust Him.

That was a wake-up call to me. I’ve decided that my performance anxiety (people pleasing tendencies) boils down to fear, and the fear boils down to not trusting God to be in control and capable.

Do I really believe God is capable of taking care of me, my loved ones, and my writing career?

YES! So I need to live that way.

Whether or not you’re dealing with the spiritual trust issue, I figured some practical tips could help. I returned to WebMD for advice. They give 10 tips for handling performance anxiety. I’ve tailored those tips for writers.

1.   Be prepared/practice. If you’re going to speak or meet with someone in the industry or send out your work, don’t wait until the night before to throw something together. The more prepared you are, the more confident you’ll feel. If you tend to get tongue-tied like I do, then write something down to take with you.
2.   Don’t let nerves keep you from eating. You sure don’t want to get up in front of people and get dizzy or keel over. On the other hand, don’t stuff yourself beforehand either. Your nervous stomach will thank you. :) Also, don’t over-do on caffeine or sugar. Being hyper isn’t usually a good thing.
3.   Shift the focus off yourself and your fear and think about the other person or the audience. Focus on making them feel comfortable. This is one of my favorite pieces of advice in any uncomfortable situation!
4.   Don’t focus on what could go wrong. Stay positive! Think about the best possible outcome and expect that.

Photo credit: iStock/petekarici

5.   Avoid negative self talk or thoughts that produce self-doubt. Nip them in the bud!
6.   Practice controlled breathing. Pray. Focus on positive thoughts. Remain calm. I’ve stopped the terrible heart pounding while singing solos in church by prayer and slow, deep breathing.
7.   Take a walk or do something physical beforehand that helps calm you or gets your nervousness out. If your muscles are in fight-or-flight mode (our body’s reaction to real danger—which stage fright can cause), then try jogging in place or jumping up and down to relieve some of that energy.
8.   Connect with your audience or with the other person. If you’re in person, smile and look them in the eye. If it’s online, jump in with friendly conversation. You can do this!
9.   Act natural and be yourself! Don’t try to be someone you’re not. Don’t try to meet unrealistic expectations. (If you’re shy, don’t think you suddenly have to become the life of the party.) Just reach out and be you. And always remember the other person/people may be nervous too! (Remember #3.)
10. Get plenty of rest! This is a big one for me. You can’t be on top of your game if you’re exhausted and frazzled. You need brain power (same as with eating).

I would also add another tip. Don’t ever hold back in your writing. Be honest, be passionate. Don’t fear letting readers get close. And don’t let anxiety keep you from doing your best work. Don't let it stop you from speaking up or stepping out to take advantage of opportunities.

I hope my sharing has helped you who suffer from similar anxiety. If you don’t, then I’m happy for you! If you’ve battled and overcome already, I applaud you!

Today, I’d love to hear from our lurkers, especially those who’ve been shy about commenting. I’ll give away one copy of any of my books (print or e-book as available), winner’s choice, to any lurker who comments and lets me know you’d like to be entered.

My question for everyone (lurker or not) is: who here has ever experienced stage fright? How’d you deal with it? Also, I'd love to hear what you think about the Olympics so far!



  1. Missy, I guess I wouldn't be a lurker. But I loved your post...and the deep thoughts on trust and fear. Guess I need to make trust a more important issue in my life because I fear...others, new situations, etc. thanks for coming so prepared. I'm still living in a chocolate induced coma from the weekend! Thanks for the invite, Tina

  2. Missy, you really nailed it. There's anxiety at every phase. Right now I'm a little tense about having my "baby" out there where readers can dissect it.

    There's extra coffee for those who need it.

    Haven't watched any Olympics yet.


  3. Hello Missy. I'm just a visitor, but I enjoyed your comments. Seems most people have felt this way at sometime. I know when I was young I felt so nervous when I was in a school show that only had a friend and myself where the public was invited. Some holiday program. But after I got started I did fine. But was scary to look at the crowd and think I might mess up. And later when I first sang in front of my church on a Sunday morning. And, I had sang with my whole when younger too. But it was certainly different doing a Duet. I like your point in #4 above. Focus on the other person instead of yourself, and above all ask for GOD's help to do your best. He always wants to hear from us. Thanks to all of you for letting me visit. Maxie mac262(at)me(dot)com


  4. Maxie again. I goofed. This topic was #3. But I liked #4 also. Thanks for a chance to be here.

  5. Marianne, I heard the event was fantastic! I envy those of you who got to partake. Wish I could have been there with all of you!

  6. Helen, that is a truly scary phase! But it's so wonderful to actually hold a book with your name on it (or to see it on an e-reader) that it makes it worth it. :)

    Thanks for the coffee! I'll take decaff since I'm heading to be soon.

  7. BTW, I'm watching women's figure skating right now! I just love the sparkly, flawy outfits.

  8. Hi, Maxie. I'm so glad you joined us! Thanks for your input. It sounds like you've felt the fear while singing that I have. In the past, I've been so nervous that my throat has closed up. I'm able to control it much better now, but my heart still pounds. :)

    I truly thing the more we do something, the easier it gets. And that builds our confidence.

  9. I've never really had stage fright, but I am learning lots about trusting God right now. Thanks for your post!

  10. Hi Missy. When I was younger I was extremely shy so experienced fear in much of what I did or tried to do. But I am thankful that God brought me out of being shy when I reached my 30s. Because of my shyness I didn't always enjoy the things I had to do but now when I look back I wish I could have enjoyed things more. I also use to suffer from test anxiety. The way I handles it was with prayer...lots of prayer.

    I love the winter Olympics, especially the ice skating and downhill skiing. Unfortunately, it is never on at a decent hour where I live so I haven't seen much.

    I would love to be in your giveaway.

    Smiles & Blessings,
    Cindy W.

    countrybear52 AT yahoo DOT com

  11. You know reading the symptons of stage fright change it to fear of dogs and you have me! Rapid pause,
    trembling, frozen on the spot, and then the screaming may start and normally the tears. I normally flee.

    I also have the same issue in public. The last time I read a bible reading in Church I said never again. I had practiced with a friend so I had the speed right. well the day when I had to read I stood up looked at the bible reading and could not see a word on the page it all swam around. I knew it by heart from practicing so much. my heart was pounding and I said never again.

    haven't seen to much of the olympics as its on while I am sleeping. but we do get to see the aussies on news etc.

  12. Hi Missy,

    I definitely get performance anxiety. Thanks for sharing the tips to deal with it.

    So far I'm enjoying what I've seen of the Olympics. The ice skating is my favorite.

    Have a great day!

  13. Excellent post, Missy! I ALMOST canceled my group pitch appointment with Natasha Kern when she was at the Desert Dreams conference in my pre-pubbed days because I was so scared of pitching my story to an agent I much admired (and pitching it in front of a group of others who wanted to claim her attention, too).

    It would have been so easy to cancel the appointment--just walk up to the agent scheduling table and tell them to pick someone else from their wait list. But God bolstered me, I pitched, Natasha asked to see a proposal and, although she ultimately didn't offer to represent that particular book, it was the start of a relationship that later led to representation. So getting over the 'stage fright' is worth it--I have my dream agent!

  14. I'm with Helen -- anxious about having my first "baby" out there. But I agree with you that it was so exciting to see my listing on Amazon and other websites. I messaged my high school English teacher's daughter on Facebook and asked her to pass along to her mother that her teaching efforts were not in vain because I learned so much from her. The daughter said she was going to buy a copy of my book for her mother. That means so much!

    You've given great advice. I've done presentations to my church, my RWA chapter as well as moderated workshops at the national conference. I've used many of the tips you offered, but for me the most important is #1 -- be prepared. I'll line up pillows on the sofa and pretend they are my audience and give my presentation to them. I've heard others say they'll take their kids' stuffed animals and do the same thing. Or they'll give the presentation to their spouse and/or children.

    Olympics? Oh my yes I've watched! I especially enjoy the figure skating and there's still lots more of that. But honestly, I'll watch anything at the Olympic games. I commented the other night on Facebook that while snowboarding wasn't exactly my "thing," that didn't keep me from appreciating the skill involved and the hard work these athletes have put into their sport.

    I have a pot of tea on if someone wants that instead of coffee.

  15. Missy,

    I love your number 4, not focusing on what could go wrong...

    I don't have anxiety speaking in front of a group of people, but occasionally when I don't feel as prepared as I should, I will THINK of all the things that will go wrong, mostly 'dead air". You know finished 30 minutes early, no questions, etc. THAT NEVER HAPPENS. NEVER...

    The people who are in the audience have shown up for a reason and they WANT to be there so they are more than happy to ask questions and listen attentively!

  16. Consumed by Him,

    I've decided that's going to be my life long journey. It's somethings He's always working on in my life.

    Thanks for stopping by!

  17. Missy, great post. I still have major nerves when I sit down with an agent or editor. I don't perform well when I'm nervous. :)

    I've forgotten words while singing a solo and gotten tongue-tied when speaking to someone I want to impress. I'm learning to let it go and move forward as best as I can, rather than let my mistake paralyze me. And yes, being prepared helps immensely! :)

    Surprisingly, as long as I know ahead of time, I do okay speaking in front of people. If I'm prepared.

    PS—I haven't watched even one minute of the Olympics. Keep meaning to, but..... :)

  18. Cindy W., test anxiety can be a huge problem for some! I'm glad you got past your shyness.

    I sure hope you can catch some of the Olympics! Maybe at least some of the highlights. I stayed up WAY too late last night watching!

  19. Jenny! You poor thing. I didn't know you were so scared of dogs. Were you bitten as a child?

    You know, reading in front of people can be really tough. I'm glad you managed!

  20. So much information and so little brain awake this morning!! LOL, Missy, you've touched on so many hot points, I don't know where to begin.

    One of the most helpful bits of advice I received years ago about submitting my writing to contests or critiques is to keep in mind the comments are directed toward the work-in-hand, not you. Don't take the critique personally. It's the story that needs help -- not you!

    I know it's easy for me to say "don't take it personally" when it's not my work under fire : ) Just remember, when you submit your baby to an editor or a contest, the person judging it doesn't know you. They see the work before them and point out areas of concern (hopefully with tact!!).

    Now that doesn't help Missy at all when she's singing a solo, but rumor has it, Missy Tippens sings like an angel : )

  21. Jackie, I hope it helps! Thanks for stopping by. I love the skating, too! We've also really enjoyed the snow boarding and skiing.

    We were watching that downhill skiing--can't remember exactly which event--but they got up to 80 miles per hour!! Oh my gosh, I could hardly stand watching. I don't even like to drive that fast in a car!

  22. Yeah, the Olympics. What up with Vladimir Putin?
    Kathy Bailey

  23. Maxie, welcome to Seekerville! So glad you left a comment!

    Thanks for sharing your story. It's always toughest to start the performance. By the end, you wish it would never stop, right?

  24. Glynna, I'm glad I'm not the only one! At least you overcame and kept that appointment. I remember wanting to kick myself. I hated that I let anxiety keep me away. And I'm glad I finally followed through years later, even though I was nervous. :)

  25. Marianne, I'm so envious of your chocolate overload. I'm inhaling the residual scent of melted chocolate that's wafted it's way into Colorado...

  26. Marianne, I'm so envious of your chocolate overload. I'm inhaling the residual scent of melted chocolate that's wafted it's way into Colorado...

  27. I am scared a lot. The older I get, the more I realize how flawed my work is, or can be. Which is the reverse of people who are scared just out of the gate. Be scared and do it anyway, they can't draw blood.
    Unless they're the Red Cross...

  28. *raises hand* I guess I've turned into a lurker again, lol.

    As far as the Olympics goes, I confess I haven't watched any of it yet.

    As far as stage fright goes: I'm horribly shy, so I amazed myself when I pitched at RWA last year. I thought I was going to have a heart attack, and as soon as I sat down in front of the editor I was pitching, I became incredibly calm. Thank God! My explanation for that is prayer, and let God take over :)

  29. Marilyn! That's so fun to have your high school teacher receive a copy of your book! What a thrill. I'm sure your teacher will be so proud.

    Yes on the snow boarding. Love to watch their daring!

  30. Rose, amen to that! Those worst case scenarios just DON'T happen! I call that worst case scenarioitis, and I battle the condition. :)

  31. Of course, I have to add that the condition sometimes gives me good book ideas. LOL

  32. Missy,
    You said be prepared if doing something like a pitch. 2-3 years ago I went to my one and only conference and signed up for a pitch. Every time I tried to write down something clever, they never sounded right. And as luck we would have it, my agent had a cancellation so I could pitch even earlier. I talked so fast she could barely understand my babbles and I'm quite sure I didn't use even half my allotted time. I felt very awkward, ready to burst into nervous laughter as I walked away from that agent. She did ask to my book though.

    Enjoyed the comments.

  33. Jeanne T, that's interesting that knowing ahead of time helps you. So yes, preparation is definitely key for you!

    I'm so glad I'm not the only one around here who gets tongue tied. :)

  34. LOL, Audra! Did I sing in the shower when we roomed together at conference?? :)

    You're so right about taking feedback on our work as just that: feedback. Not personal criticism. It's all part of growing our rhino hide.

    We writers need that rhino hide. Yet we still have to remain sensitive. We can't toughen so much that it affects our writing.

  35. Kathy Bailey, I kept seeing him pictured with athletes yesterday but wasn't listening to what they were saying.

  36. Kathy B, I love that slogan! Be scared and do it anyway. :)

    Yeah, sometimes we just have to plow ahead and do it. And like I said, I think it eventually gets easier.

  37. Annie, good for you for battling that terrible fear and pitching anyway!! I can TOTALLY relate to that feeling of having a heart attack. I mean when I'm up front teaching a workshop, I feel certain people can see my heart ready to burst out of my chest.

    We're glad to see you again!

  38. Connie, I had to laugh. I did the same thing in an editor pitch at my very first conference. I started to babble the whole story about a hundred miles per hour, and the poor editor had to cut me off! LOL She was very kind about it, but I was SO embarrassed! At least you got the request for your manuscript! :)

  39. Okay, you lurkers! I know we have more out there. You don't have to say anything other than that you're there, and you'd like to be entered in the giveaway. :)

    Of course, we'd love to learn more about you, too. :)

  40. BRILLIANT POST, Missy, especially luring the lurkers out into the Sonlight!! :)

    This is EXCELLENT advice, my friend, and having "lived" with you on the Seeker loop, "shy" is the last word that comes to mind. ;)

    I don't generally get "performance anxiety" about meeting people or even speaking to a group or an editor, but my stomach does drop when I hit "send" on a private email or text that I suddenly worry might be "global." And also when I click "send" on my manuscript to my editor.

    But where you nailed me to the wall was with this statement, "Do I really believe God is capable of taking care of me, my loved ones, and my writing career?
    YES! So I need to live that way."

    Somehow I think this is THE MESSAGE God is trying to get across this year, not just for me, but for so many authors/writers I've talked to, so VERY timely subject with some VERY excellent ways to overcome, my friend -- thank you!!


  41. Great post, Missy, with wonderful suggestions for taming performance anxiety. I've sure been there, especially when pitching a book to an agent or editor. When I'm part of a workshop, I learned a tip from Debby. I don't stay behind the table. As attendees arrive, I meet each one. That keeps me calm and I feel like I'm among friends when the workshop begins.


  42. I was absolutely petrified the first couple of times I did a TV interview! I'd never really spoken in public before, and there I was, doing local TV! The fear was overwhelming. I only know one person who watched me--HA!--and she said I looked nervous. Hm, I wonder why? But you know what? More recently I did an hour-long TV appearance on a local TV show (To this day I'm not sure anybody even watched it) and I wasn't even very nervous. The more public speaking I do--and I haven't done much--the less nervous I get. In fact, I think I am more at ease speaking in front of a group of strangers than I am in meeting people one on one. I guess it's the fear of rejection, I don't know. And phone calls with potential agents or publishers ... those are worse than speaking in a group, because I KNOW I will sound stupid, and I will giggle nervously and sound very unprofessional. Oy vey, how I hate how I sound on the phone. I still get nervous speaking in front of a group, but I actually kind of enjoy it. :-) There's just something about that captive audience. LOL! I think it's because nobody listens to me at home!!!

  43. Forgot to say, GREAT post, Missy!!! I love the tips! Especially the tip to take the focus off yourself and think about making the other people comfortable. That is what I need to remember. I'm speaking at a writers conference in a week and a half!!! Yikes, I need to get prepared for that!

  44. Julie, I think the question of "Is God capable?" is going to be the theme of my life! :) It takes constant reminders. And I think God must continually shake His head, wondering if I'll ever quit trying to take over control.

  45. LOL, Julie. I also meant to say that on our Seeker loop I'm always myself (not a bit shy) because I know y'all love me no matter what stupid things I do or say. :)

  46. Janet, that's such a great tip! It's much easier to get up and speak once we've met the listeners and feel a connection with them.

  47. LOL, Melanie! I think you may be one to something for those of us with kids/teens at home! Maybe we get more respect elsewhere! LOL

    We'll be thinking of you when you speak next week! I'm sure you'll do great.

    And hey! You need to find out if you can get a link to the last TV appearance! We'd love to watch. :)

  48. Great post Missy. This is a very common fear. I'm always amazed by the amount of people who suffer from fear of public speaking. My best friend, who is in the banking industry, is brilliant and beautiful, yet she breaks out in hives whenever she has to give a speech. Thankfully, I love public speaking, perhaps because I acted a lot in high school and got used to audiences and crowds. Great tips on how to deal wit these fears.

  49. Missy, this is all wonderful advice! I will never forget my first editor appointment at a conference. I was so green! I sat down and immediately started crying from nerves! Thank goodness the editor was very understanding and patient.

    I'm not so nervous before a speaking engagement if I have everything written down that I'm going to say. But I do often lose sleep the night before as my brain goes over every little detail to make sure I didn't forget anything.

    Then after it's over, I often lose another night's sleep replaying the whole event in my mind and thinking things like, "I should have said this" or "I should have remembered that." Ugh.

  50. I am one of those shy people who cannot stand public - speaking or anything like that. I'm much better with words on paper than I am with words out of my mouth.
    I had a tiny dose of stage fright yesterday. A woman at church asked me what I write.
    And I froze. I looked to my BF who didn't say a thing because I haven't let him read anything I write. Lol. Now I'm determined to figure out exactly what I need to say when that happens. (Although I'd like to just direct people to my Facebook page and let them read about me there.)

  51. Hi MISSY, Oh yes, I have experienced stage fright. As I've matured, I've learned to sit quiet and get close to God. I repeat Jesus, Jesus over and over. Now this is just a recent development, but it works wonders.

  52. Thank you for this post Missy! I have always been horribly shy. I'll keep these tips in mind.

  53. Thank you , Missy, good post!
    Meeting people and talking one on one is never a problem for me—but have a roomful of people sat down and leave me standing—I don't like it at all. I do speak every now and then, when pressed into it.

    I hang onto my mantra "My Lord, who loves me, is right here beside me'. He is, and it helps to keep reminding myself. :-)

  54. Hi Missy, I read once (can't remember where) that performance anxiety can be a form of pride. I had never considered myself a prideful person but after thinking about it more, I had to agree. At least partially. The point the author was trying to get across was that we are supposed to keep our eyes on him. If we're so worried about what others think, our eyes are on ourselves instead of looking to and trusting our Creator. I don't feel that is always the case but now whenever I am anxious about something I'm trying to accomplish, I do stop and ask myself if I'm being prideful. I tend to let fear stop me entirely too much and this has helped. Trust in Him is key.

    As for the Olympics, I love watching and ALWAYS stay up way to late to make sure I don't miss my favorite events.

  55. EXCELLENT advice, Missy. It sure helped my workshop on Saturday. I focused on the one person in the audience at a time and my stress went way down.

  56. Belle, I know people who break out in hives, too! :) We all react differently to stress. In life, it's just something we have to learn to deal with.

    Thanks for stopping by!

  57. Myra, I do the exact same thing. Break it down over and over in my mind afterward. I also sometimes get a migraine after a big event is over!

    I had to smile at your comment about crying. At a conference, one of the Hq editors (can't remember which one) once said she'd just had an appointment where the author burst into tears. She said she didn't know what to do, so just scooted a bowl across the table and said, "Here, have some chocolate." :)

  58. Courtney, I totally understand! I've frozen up when asked what my book was about. I still do sometimes! For some reason, they all start blurring together. LOL

    That's why memorizing your elevator pitch helps--at least at conferences. At church, maybe it's enough to just say Christian romance or romantic suspense or whatever. Then they can ask questions. It's much easier to answer specific questions, I think.

  59. Sandra, I remember you mentioning doing that. I think Debby does it, too (or maybe she recommended trying it). I love the idea!

  60. Great blog, Missy!

    Presenting to any size group is difficult and can cause my pulse to race. Beforehand I have a heart-to-heart talk with God and tell him the outcome is in his hands. If he wants me to trip up, that's okay. If he wants my words to produce good fruit, even better. Placing it in his control, takes the burden off me and usually helps to ease my least a bit! :)

    You're right about being prepared and getting enough sleep!

    Also, I always ask for prayer coverage when I'm presenting. My wonderful prayer warriors lift me up. I can feel that prayer support and know the Lord is blessing the work we're doing together.

  61. Donna, I hope it helps. We're glad you chime in here despite being shy! :)

  62. Mary Hicks, I love that mantra!

    You know, I've found it's easier to do a workshop when I'm sitting at a front table. There is just something about standing…

    But a podium helps. I like that I can hold on to it. :)

  63. I am a commenter turned lurker. It takes a lot to get me out of lurkdom these days but Missy's plea for lurker comments won me over. Here's my confession of performance anxiety: The only way I can write anything decent is to pretend that NO ONE is ever going to read it. Of course if no one ever reads what I wrote, then I've accomplished my goal - right? That's where the 'pretending' factors in. How long do you suppose I can keep fooling myself:)?

  64. Waving to Sandra and Janet!

    "Jesus, I trust in you," is my go-to prayer when stress hits.

    Also, "Breathe in Jesus, breathe out peace."

    Both calm my nerves and help me focus on the job/situation at hand instead of my anxiety.

  65. Pat W said: "If we're so worried about what others think, our eyes are on ourselves instead of looking to and trusting our Creator."

    Wow! That's an EXCELLENT point! I hadn't thought of it that way. And in many cases, I think you're right. Thanks so much for sharing this thought about it being a form of pride. Definitely something to consider whenever we're in this situation.

  66. Cindy, always good to see you in Seekerville!!! YAY!!! Thanks for sharing with us today.

  67. Patti Jo and I are meeting for lunch!

    Wish you could all join us!

  68. Tina, I'm sure you did a great job on Saturday! I wish I could have been there.

  69. Whew, I had an anxiety attack just reading this! LOL.

    No public speaking for me. I don't like being the center of attention at all. I'm the 'slip in the back row' type of girl - for sure. When I was on the parent council at my kids grade school, I hated giving my report in front of all the other parents and teachers - and that was sitting down in a circle of friendly people!

    I have managed to do pretty well at agent/editor interviews. But I couldn't memorize anything. I just had to wing it when I got there, otherwise I would have come off like a robot.

    Great tips though, Missy! I think a lot of us writers are the shy, anxious types. I'm amazed how many of you give speeches and teach courses.


  70. Debby, another great pointer. Get prayer backup! I always feel those prayers, too. And it helps.

  71. Excellent post, Missy. Besides trusting in God, I like what you said about thinking of the other person. Being too full of self gets us into all kinds of trouble. I pray for the person I'm dealing with. Like right now I'm praying you don't think this is a dumb comment.

    The Olympics are the only sports I follow. I love figure skating, ice dancing, and all skiing except cross-country. And ski jumping. I wrote my first novel in 1992 and since I had Austrian characters, I watched the Winter Olympics to get their names. To this day I root for the Austrians. They're not doing too well this year.

  72. OOPS - I always do this at work! Fr. David is my alter ego! LOL.

    :) SUE

  73. Cindy R, I love the idea of pretending that on one will read it! :) :) Maybe you can start that thought fresh each time you start a new project. Then send the "baby" out the door. You'll crash back to reality, but hey, at least you've made it through the creation process! :)

    Actually, you make a really good point. We need to write that first draft without worry of who will read it, pouring our heart out onto the page. That's what makes for fiction a reader can really care about.

  74. Debby, I'm so envious! Give Patti Jo a hug for me! I wish I could join you.

  75. Wow, Missy, you've really hit on something we can all relate to.

    And I love your solution. Of course God is capable, and where he calls, he equips. We shouldn't have performance anxiety when we're doing what he calls us to do...yet, it's there all the same.

    I have to say, though, that my daily visits to Seekerville have done a lot to help tone down the anxiety. There's nothing like knowing you're always welcome somewhere to give you confidence :)

  76. LOL, Sue! Sorry to give you anxiety reading the post. :)

    You know, I can remember years ago having anxiety just having to stand to be recognized for working on a committee for a retreat--the heart pounding, face burning type anxiety because all eyes were on me for just a moment. I'm thankful I've gotten past some of those feelings to be able to speak and do workshops. Because I DO love teaching.

  77. Elaine, it's NOT a dumb comment at all! :)

    You know, my daughter and I were just commenting this weekend on how it was tough to watch the cross country skiing. We also figured that had to be about the most exhausting sport of all.

  78. Jan said: "Of course God is capable, and where he calls, he equips. We shouldn't have performance anxiety when we're doing what he calls us to do…"

    Amen to that! Yes, He DOES equip us. Excellent point! You know, in the beginning, I didn't feel "qualified" to write inspirational romance. But then I started in a new Bible study, Experiencing God, and learned more about Moses. That really touched me as well as pushed me to trust and step out to try writing inspy.

    I'm glad our blog can be a fun, safe place for people to jump in and feel comfortable!

  79. Oh, no, Missy!!!! That wouldn't have been the Houston ACFW conference, would it???? Sure sounds like what happened with me!

  80. Great tips, Missy! I had lurked at this blog for over a year, completely intimidated by all of you wonderful, published authors, until a few weeks ago when I finally commented. :-) Those symptoms are SO real, and I love that you mentioned anxiety even when publishing a blog post. I'm in a position in my church now where I have to stand in front of the congregation (about 70 people) about once a month and give updates on our missionaries. It's nerve-wracking, but I can tell it's also getting easier. Thank you for your understanding and your encouragement! I would love to be entered to win one of your books.

  81. Missy, a podium does help, if it's a good heavy one. I once giggled a lightweight podium around in my nervous dance while talking—well, not to far though! :-)

  82. Missy, I do NOT share my TV appearances! I cringe at them and can't bear to watch them myself. Also, that hour-long show? They are so low-tech, they don't even post their shows anywhere. Very small station, very small range, which is one reason I wasn't that nervous the last time I was on there!

    Yeah, I get more respect elsewhere! It's hard to impress my kids!!!

  83. No, Myra. LOL! It was at RWA one year. Don't remember which one. :)

  84. Meghan, good for you for getting up each week despite the stress! I can hardly believe how much better I do nowadays than I did a decade ago.

    I'm also glad you're jumping in to comment! :)

  85. So funny, Mary H!! I can just picture that podium rocking and walking across the stage with you! :)

  86. Melanie, just in case, I'm going to google to find videos of you! (evil laugh)


  87. It's lunch time! But if you'd rather have chocolate, Jan Drexler is sharing Nutella Swirl brownies at the Cafe today! (see link to Yankee-Belle Cafe in the side bar)

  88. Excuse me for being late to stop by. Every time I started reading this I had to go panic even thinking about it.

    This was a GREAT part, Missy....Most of us have done it: stood in front of a crowd, palms sweating, heart pounding, throat dry as dust. Or maybe it wasn’t a big crowd. Maybe stage fright kicked in just by sitting at a table with strangers at a conference luncheon. Or coming out of lurkdom to comment on a blog. Or teaching a workshop. Or pitching a story to an editor or agent.

    >>>>hyperventilating and pretty sure my blood pressure hit FOUR FIGURES, just reading that.


  89. In fairness to this, Missy:

    The first time I sent my work to a published author to be critiqued at my local RWA chapter (thank you Ann Howard White!), I was nearly sick and almost burst into tears when she met with me to give feedback.

    >>>admit it, Miss 18 on the Are You a Sensitive Person Test (on a scale of zero to 20, Twenty being A total empathy and zero being RUTHY, you cry a little bit too easily.

  90. Really, Missy? Seriously? Prepare and practice? I've found avoidance and denial to be much more conducive to maintaining calm.

    Frowning as I consider this radical suggestion. :(

  91. Don’t let nerves keep you from eating.<<<<

    Here's a surprise...NOTHING KEEPS ME FROM EATING.....

  92. My sister teaches speech at a community college. She doesn't allow them to talk behind a podium because it provides a barrier between them and their audience.Needless to say, a lot of her students hate the beginning of the semester.

    Some of her students have taken medicine to calm down and almost passed out during their speech, some who get nauseous. She tries to be encouraging but probably over 90% of the students are petrified of talking in front of an audience.

  93. 5. Avoid negative self talk or thoughts that produce self-doubt. Nip them in the bud!

    >>>okay so you're saying me chanting internally, "I'm stupid, stupid, stupid." accompanied by the occasional punch to the wrong, huh?

  94. 7. Take a walk or do something physical beforehand that helps calm you or gets your nervousness out.

    >>>but what if I walk to FAR, what if that makes me LATE getting back? Are you supposed to get all dressed for your speech and then go for a long walk? What if you get sweaty? What if you walk outside and the wind messes up your hair? What if you then have to go back to WHEREVER and get all dressed again? What if THAT makes you late?

    Missy the pressure of your suggestions is KILLING ME!

  95. Don’t try to meet unrealistic expectations.

    Honestly, Missy, the speech itself is an unrealistic expectation so your advice seems to be....don't offer to speak to begin with.

    Excuse me while I go email a few people and withdraw my agreements with them.

    Be back soon to read the rest of this.....

  96. 10. Get plenty of rest! This is a big one for me. You can’t be on top of your game if you’re exhausted and frazzled.

    >>> so then the insomnia that always accompanies the night before a public speaking gig is WRONG, you're saying it's WRONG? Great something else to worry about.
    I personally have a slightly different view of this. As a lifelong insomniac who gets worse the night before ANYTHING big, my mantra is, "Every important thing in my life has been done on four hours of sleep."

    Accompanied by this bit of philosophy that I cling to: "I've been tired before, I'll be tired again. It's NO BIG DEAL TO BE TIRED."

  97. Missy Quote: I hope my sharing has helped you who suffer from similar anxiety. If you don’t, then I’m happy for you! If you’ve battled and overcome already, I applaud you!
    Additional unspoken ending to Missy quote:
    I hope my sharing has helped you who suffer from similar anxiety. If you don’t, then I’m happy for you! If you’ve battled and overcome already, I applaud you! And if you're still nervous then you're hopeless and stupid and a stinking sinner.

  98. Seriously Missy, I'm totally printing this one out. It's a keeper!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  99. Missy never been bitten but have had the fear as long as I remember. I am ok if I get to know the dog. Like the big one over the road as long as it has something in its mouth. But there are dogs that I know are lose so I avoid walking those areas. If I see a dog in an area I am walking I will retreat and go a different way. Screaming at 6.30am is not a good thing to do and I have.
    I am getting better than I was but if one runs out at me I am gone. Actually last time I just stood still heard beating and fast breathing. The owners were there and it was a huge puppy which I have now made friends with but fear took over when he came if the owner hadn't been there I am not sure what I would have done.

  100. Missy
    I tend to be a negative thought person if I get nervous. So my initial response to "think positive thoughts" is usually, I'm POSITIVE I'm going to mess this up. *heh*

    I have done enough speech type stuff (teaching an undergrad University class) to sort of get over it. Most of the time I just figure, I'm never going to see these people again (not the students, but people in crowd where I'm speaking), so it doesn't matter what they think, just as long as they don't tell me I stink (they can tell anyone else that after the day and they've gone home - I don't know who they're talking to and never will *shrug*)

    My mom always prays for me and with me before big things. That's always been my security blanket 'cuz she's one of those "Got God's ear" people. Yep. Nice, fluffy, warm security blanket that keeps me safe in the midst of my activity.

    I love your list of ideas for keeping calm.

    As for Olympics, I like curling, because I actually got to do that once with a Canadian friend. I haven't seen anything of this year's though. Rug rat doesn't understand Olympics, he just wants his children's programming.

  101. Missy, the tip about concentrating on the other person is wonderful!! Now that I think about it, that's what I did as a journalist, interviewing people. Help them feel at ease and you wind up with more than enough info for an article. Gotta remember the same technique in public speaking.

    One thing that helps me is to remind myself that the world really will not disintegrate if I goof.

    I just have to remind myself of that a lot.

    Waving "hi" to the ex-lurkers. Nice to meet you :-)

    Nancy C

  102. Great post, Missy. I certainly fit your description of a person with performance anxiety. Love the tips!

  103. Well, it might surprise you but I do get nervous in some situations....

    But it's rare.

    So I can't speak a lot to this which should relieve you all!!!!

    But I brought chocolate candy, is it too early to celebrate Valentine's Day??? With self-bought chocolate???

    Just wondering. :)

  104. I think we've all been there, Missy, unless we're an over-the-top extrovert.

    Anybody here who's always just been the life of the party and has never experienced stage fright of any kind? I have a nephew like that. He's a musician, a great singer, and can act when called upon. The bigger the crowd, the better he hams it up.

    Me? I say, go for it, buddy. I'll sit on the sidelines and cheer you on! lol

    But I do have to get out there and do my part. Once I had to give a speech at my local historical society. I wanted to do well, so I prepared my topic well ahead of time, and then I read it out loud and tweaked and it.

    Then, I set up my tripod and video camera (thank goodness for a digital harddrive! :) and recorded myself talking.

    Over and over and over again.

    I also recording myself a couple of times while walking on the treadmill. Why? Because I wanted to NOT be THINKING about the speech or about me and what I was doing. All of that helped me to feel confident in my delivery, and I think eventually they'll invite me back.

    Once they get over seeing a woman lug a treadmill into the society hall for her speech...

  105. I love that Missy is throwing the gauntlet at people!!!!


    You go, girl!

  106. Melanie, I could share pictures of you speaking at the SCWC, or maybe that 5 minute clip I recorded?

    I think it would be a nice compliment to Missy's post, don't you?


  107. Terrific post, Missy. I've been lurking lately, trying to take back some of the lost time that seems to be seeping away every day.

    This reminded me of a lecture I presented to 350 women anxious to hear my research. I was well prepared and conducted a run-through before the event to insure I understood the hotel's equipment. God helped me through the butterflies as I was introduced. And then, with all eyes on me, I switched on the first computer slide and the screen was dark. My calm turned to measured internal hysteria. After several minutes, people started shifting and some walked out. I called hotel staff help. It even took them a few minutes to figure out that the podium plug didn't have power so my computer battery had died. Once replugged, I navigated my presentation, but it was a humbling feeling when I showed that last slide.

  108. Janet said: When I'm part of a workshop, I learned a tip from Debby. I don't stay behind the table. As attendees arrive, I meet each one.

    Excellent advice!

  109. Good grief, I had heart palpitations just reading your blog today Missy! :-) Though I'm kind of relieved to know that I'm not the only one. It still surprises me that so many of you who have achieved success in your profession still have that level of anxiety. I'd be hanging on your every word!

    I'm terrified at the thought of pitching to an agent or and editor. That takes guts! One of my worst anxiety moments...well lasted way longer than a moment...was when I was asked to teach an adult Sunday School class. I used to throw up every Sunday morning before heading out to church. Ugh -- I still get chills thinking about that. LOL

    Don't enter me in the draw, Missy, because I have all your books. :-)


    Oh my gosh, I just scared the dog laughing so loud. I think the funniest part was that Ruthy is a ZERO on the sensitive scale. Either that, or that nothing keeps you from eating!!


  111. I'm also laughing LOUDLY because I got online and was to tickled to see so many comments. Then realized at least 10 OF THEM were Mary making fun of me!!

    :) :) :)

    Hooo boy. That good laugh surely extended my life for about 5 years. Thanks, Mare.

  112. Connie Q, first I have to say I LOVE your dog in your profile photo! :)

    You know, I took a speech class in college. I never would have done that by choice, so it must've been required. I remember having to do a debate. I don't remember giving any speeches--podium or not. I'm sure I blocked that trauma out! :)

  113. Jenny, I'm glad you were able to make friends with the puppy. I love dogs so much! But I understand being afraid of strange dogs.

  114. DebH, how wonderful that your mother prays for you before speaking! I love how you describe that as a security blanket. A wonderful thought!

  115. Thank you for this post, Missy. I am Lee Kilraine and I've been lurking here for more than a few months. In fact, Tina was so very kind enough to respond to an email question I sent to Seekerville last fall and invited me to de-lurk then but I didn't summon the nerve. I think I've stayed quiet because I feel like my writing journey is so new, my knowledge so limited that I don't have much to add. But this is one of the places that has helped me learn so much. Everyone is friendly, encouraging, and so generous with advice. And yummy snacks too! The idea of pitching to an editor or agent does make me nervous. I think Missy's #3 tip might be helpful along with lots of prayer and practice. I am not an Inspy writer. I write romantic comedy with some YA ideas simmering on the back burner.

  116. Nancy C, that's great that you already did that while interviewing others. I hope it works as well for you when you speak!

    And you're so right about the world not ending. :)

  117. Ruthy, I think it's probably not simply rare, but maybe happened once in your life! LOL I just can't see you being nervous. :)

    Cara, I'm glad you can relate!

  118. Pam, what a great idea for truly testing how well you knew your speech! I'm sure you must've been winded though. :)

    LOL on showing up with your treadmill!

  119. Oh, Lyndee, my stomach sank just reading your comment! Technical difficulties are just horrible! I'm so sorry that happened to you. It sounds like you handled it well, though. I'm glad it turned out well.

    It's good to see you again. I know what you mean about time seeping away while online.

  120. Ten of these comments may indeed be mine but about 98 of them are yours Missy.

  121. Kav, you poor thing! It's hard to imagine the stress you must've been feeling to be sick before teaching Sunday school each week. But I know how real the physical symptoms are. If you get asked to teach again, do you think you would try it? I hope so!

  122. LYNDEE This is one of those speeches where you have to measure success by the Mary Connealy Scale. --MCScale

    On the MCScale A speech is a success if everyone gets out alive.

  123. KAV you poor sweet baby.

    I am just frowning like CRAZY right now.

    God bless you for soldiering on.

    I'd have quit, probably changed churches. Possibly moved with no forwarding address and dropped my cell phone and maybe changed my email address.

    So by comparison you are VERY BRAVE!!!!!

  124. Lee K, I'm so glad you came out of the land of lurkdom! :) No need to feel you have to add much about writing since you're new at it. We'd love just to hang out and get to know you.

    By the way, I have a YA idea on the back burner, too. Actually, I'm into writing it. I haven't worked on it in a few months but really enjoy when I do take time to look at it again. :)

  125. OMGosh, Mary! How eye opening! I think I've just re-set my standards for speeches and workshops. If everyone gets out alive, it was a success! Sounds good for those reading my books as well.

    :) :)



    I mean, really, can we have a conversation around here that doesn't come back to my lack of sensitivity????

    Mock my voice.... (boo hoo hoo!!!)

    Poke fun at my big teeth!!!!!

    But to say I'm insensitive.... Well, really, ask my cats.

    No, wait. Don't ask them.

    Okay, my kids, ask my kids how AMAZINGLY SENSITIVE I AM!!!



    Leave them out of it. (bows head, thinks hard, trying to envision anyone to support the Ruthy-for-sensitivity-mentor campaign....)

    Sighs and walks away, dejected.

  127. Missy does cry easily.

    Her tears have been solely responsible for ANY AND ALL GUILT I've experienced as a Seeker.


    Hers and TEEEEEEENAs.

    For pity's sake.

  128. Yeah, Ruthy but when Tina made you feel guilty you TOTALLY DESERVED IT!

    With Missy, well darn it, you probably mentioned a tasty STEAK in the comments and Missy always cried at a really good STEAK.

  129. Where as TINA, well heaven knows what we all do to make her life harder....

  130. Ruthy and I actually tied on that sensitivity test.

    I don't think of myself as INSENSITIVE exactly. I just ROLL WITH THE PUNCHES. I DON'T SWEAT THE SMALL STUFF.

    ....well, except if the small stuff is a speech. Forget this whole comment too.

    Was there a section on that stupid test about public speaking? I'd have come out as CRAZY SENSITIVE if there had been.

  131. Yeah, Missy, I used to write and direct the Sunday School Christmas Program at my church, I did it for YEARS.

    I once asked my dad how a particularly wretched play went and he sort of shrugged and said, "No one was killed."

    So that's my standard.

  132. I used to get the hiccups when I sang. I still get stage fright some before singing, but usually when I had speaking engagements I wasn't so bad.

    Of course when I met with the editors and agents, I freaked myself out. I thought sure I would fall apart, only after I made a fool out of myself or puked on someone. And I ended with a headache. Wished I could say otherwise, but when it was my writing or talking about me, I froze some.

    Which is funny cause I talk about myself when I have speaking engagements and it wasn't so bad.

    hmm wonder why?

  133. Oh, Tina P, and the editors and agents probably want you to know they rarely eat authors....

    But they DO prefer blondes!!!! :)

    Yes, Mary and I scored the EXACT same on the sensitivity test and I think that makes us C-O-O-L.

    Because you sweet, docile things are just too precious for words.

    Wait, I MADE TINA MAD?????

    When was that??????

    When I:

    Forgot to put Jan Drexler's lovely post into the computer???? Even after TEEEEEENA reminded me????

    Or was it mixing up the New Year's Eve party and thinking it was the NEXT NIGHT????? After I signed up to cover two flippin' hours, LOL!!!

    You think Tina has a right to CRY?????

    Oh, dadgum.

    I'll admit it. I do not make The Radcliffe's life EASY.

    But she knows I love her.

    Right, Teeeeena?


  134. Oh, Ruthy, I love it when I make you feel guilty! That's become my goal in life. ;)

    Of course, you love when you make ME feel guilty. So I guess we're even somehow, though we're at opposite ends on that sensitivity scale. :)

  135. Tina P, that's so interesting about how speaking engagements don't bother you. I guess maybe it's more the one-on-one that makes you nervous. And I can sympathize!

  136. Missy,
    I've been lurking. Although I get nervous, I've always been able to push through it. However, there's a big difference in talking about a subject and performing a task.

    Ice skater? I'd be the one with her bum cleaning the ice.

  137. Hey, Becke! I'm glad you commented!

    Yeah, I've been ice skating a few times in my life. It's definitely not one of my talents. :)

  138. Becke, I slip and fall just THINKING about ice skating!

  139. School just got called off for tomorrow with all the anticipated bad weather excepted around Atlanta. My daughter is so excited she can hardly stand it. LOL

    They're doing everything they can to avoid the snow debacle from a week ago!

  140. YAY Missy - - this is EXCELLENT!! I think lots of us can relate to those nervous feelings you listed (I was even nervous the first few times I commented on Seekerville, LOL--but you all were SO kind, I felt at ease right away).

    And I love your reminders that God IS capable of taking care of things--I am striving to stop being such a worrier and think of Him beside me and guiding me in whatever I'm doing (still working on it *sigh*).

    Love Andy Stanley too!! He's touched so many lives.

    Sorry I'm so late commenting, but I had a wonderful time with sweet Debby Giusti at lunch today!! LOVE that precious lady!!

    And of course then I had to rush to the store since Georgia is bracing for round 2 of our winter storm (as you mentioned)---surprisingly there were a few loaves of bread and jugs of milk left on the shelves, LOL.

    Thank you again, Missy---this is a KEEPER post, for sure.
    Hugs, Patti Jo :)

  141. LOL, I meant to say EXPECTED. But we in Georgia do kind of take exception to an ice storm!

  142. Patti Jo, I'm so glad you two got to have lunch! And that you got your groceries. I hope we have enough! I had planned to shop Thursday, so the roads should be clear by then. :)

  143. Missy, thank you so much for this post!!!

    I confirmed my first ever speaking engagement today! Definitely have some performance anxiety! But as you said, God is big enough to handle it.

    Thanks for all the encouraging tips! I will definitely be reviewing!!

  144. Someone told me I have been maligned by Mary Connealy today. I am here to defend my honor. Must read all the comments first.

  145. Oh, it's just the usual stuff. I thought things had escalated.

  146. Oh I get nervous energy the day before my surgery I was the energizer bunny (only I think it was cheap batteries cos I tried had a nap than went again)
    My fridge and the outside of the washing machine hasn't looked so clean.
    I looked at the oven top after having tea/dinner and was yelling at my self NOOOOOOOOOOOO. I am always like that.

    I tend to not sleep well before I have appointments, or have to do something etc.

  147. I'm actually surprised that I have ever landed a job considering how abysmal I am during job interviews. Talk about nerves.

  148. Missy,
    What a great post. I always get nervous before speaking to a group. Once I start, I relax and I'm fine. But the hours leading up to the meeting, I'm wound tighter than the grandfather clock in the hall!

  149. Hi Missy,

    Thanks for this post. You gave great advice and I'm going to take it to heart. I'm teaching a workshop in a couple of weeks and I always feel like I'm going to hyperventilate before it starts. Once it gets going, I'm fine. PTL!

    As for the Olympics, I enjoy watching figure skating and skiing/snowboarding.

    Have a great day!
    Sherry Kyle

  150. Natalie, good for you! I'm sure you'll do a great job!

    Jenny, that definitely sounds like nervous energy. :)

    Mary Preston, I'm sure interviewers understand about nerves. :)

    LOL, Edwina. I'm glad you're able to settle in. That makes a big difference.

    Sherry, the hyperventilating was what I was doing while speaking at my church! :) My daughter said she kept finding herself taking slow deep breaths as she listened. LOL

  151. Sherry, I also meant to wish you good luck in a couple of weeks for your workshop!