Monday, July 13, 2009

Lost In Translation

Or: The Amazing Half Life of all Your Cyber Trivia

I got an email the other day from a reader in Poland, where Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos had just come out. I got to wondering where the Polish edition was available online, so I Googled the title and stumbled upon a website with a biography of me. In Polish. So I plugged it into one of the many magical online translators and learned a few eye-opening things about myself:

Following the publication of the book "The Falconmaster" which has proved a real success
Uh, not so much, no. In fact, it was remaindered.

Family life dictated that the child looked into the literature.
Again, not quite the way I remembered it. I’m pretty sure they all tried to talk me out of it.

Work on the novel takes place always in a similar rhythm.
Gawd, I wish! I need to find a new process for every dang book!

But you get the picture. And then there were some things I’m pretty sure I never said online, so I’m not quite sure how they pieced that information together. I guess I need to go through and do a Google scrubbing.

But it was this one that really made me cringe: Robin La Fevers [is] very nervous at the public signing books

Yeah. Ouch. Don’t think I’ll be doing any signings in Poland any time soon.

Clearly, this conscientious person had Googled my entire existence to piece together this biography, and stumbled upon Shrinking Violets in the process. And while I have been fairly upfront about my struggle with coming to terms with the public obligations of being an author, I am pretty sure I never intended my nervousness to be proclaimed in an official biography. ::le sigh::

While I talk about the difficulties I encounter as an introvert, I also hope I make it fairly clear that even though it has been a struggle, I embrace that opportunity to connect with readers. I’m afraid that somehow, that part got lost in translation.

Now the thing is, once upon a time, I was very nervous at public engagements. But here’s the thing that can’t be stated enough: Practice really is the best way to get over that fear.

Sure, there are other coping techniques and little tricks, but the best—dare I say only?—way to get over this fear (as opposed to reduce nervousness) is to move THROUGH it. Not around it, not under it, not over it. But to wade smack through the heart-pounding, lung-constricting fear of it until you get acclimated to that fear. Hmmm, I mean that to be comforting, but it might not be. . .

The thing is, once we become acclimated to something, it loses some of its ability to terrify us. Plus, if we’ve done it 50 times and survived, the chances are we’ll survive the 51st time as well. (Note: This may not apply equally to bungee jumping or parachuting, but it works with public speaking.)

Which is basically just a really, really long winded way of letting Poland know that I’m fairly comfortable with public speaking now, in case they’d like to invite me over for some author events. As we talk about a lot here on SVP, just because we start off being terrified by something, doesn’t mean we are condemned to feel that way for ever.

And if being luck enough to have the opportunity to connect with readers isn't a terrific impetus for change, I don't know what is.


Anonymous said...

I am so much more comfortable doing workshops, etc., than I used to be. That knowledge that I'll be okay when I get there keeps the panic down, but I still go off for a few minutes beforehand, whenever I can, to sort of let my brain idle & come down from whatever high/nervous spinning it's on. And then I wander around afterward in kind of a daze. :)

You do know, now that you've found this, someone is going to offer you an all-expense paid book tour to Poland.

Anonymous said...

We have so little control over what's posted online. One book site lists the book I actually wrote, but also proclaims that I am the author of ... two additional books that I did not write. (Another woman with my same first and last name, but different middle initial, wrote them.)

I have to laugh about their saying that you're nervous at public appearances. Because, honestly, who isn't? Public speaking is one of the top fears people have. It's natural--and it doesn't stop us! And yes, public speaking is also fun!

Robin L said...

Becky, I am totally with you on needing a few quiet minutes before, and then being slightly dazed afterwards! And laughing at the possibility of a Poland trip!

Jenn, thanks for the perspective check. Uh yeah, EVERYONE is nervous about public speaking. Not just me. Sheesh. And as you say, it doesn't stop us, just makes us work a little harder...

Mary Hershey said...

Thanks for the post, Robin! Yes, so many things get "lost in translation"-- even in English!

It's so true that frequent exposure to a stress can lead to desensitization, though the getting there can be rough! I can remember when I had to first start driving to LA for work-- the sheer force and speed of the commuter traffic had me dizzy with anxiety. Now I find myself looking forward to this "quiet time" on the road and I am completely at ease.

And I think there is some generalized learning that takes place, too. If one survives book signings, gee-- maybe being on a panel won't be so bad-- having survived that, perhaps being a workshop leader is doable.

Great stuff here, mi amiga! Gracias.