Monday, May 24, 2010

Alter Ego

According to studies, Americans' number one fear is public speaking.

Death ranks second.

Writers are often called on to speak in public—at booksignings, at conventions, on panels at conferences, in front of groups. Yet we probably are less suited to it than the average person because we are often introverts, preferring the quiet solitude of our office to anywhere else.

Sell Art OnlineMy solution to this dilemma has been to create a separate persona that I take out and dust off for public appearances and put away the rest of the time. I let my persona give talks and schmooze at conferences while I stay in the background, watching.

Unlike me, my persona gets a rush being in front of an audience. Unlike me, my persona does not speak in a monotone in public. Unlike me, my persona stays calm when she forgets what she wants to say. She not only can make small talk, she enjoys it!

How did I go about creating my persona? I started with the realization that if actors can pretend to be someone completely different from their real selves, maybe I could too. I read books and attended lectures about public speaking so that I could give my persona a skill set. I studied extroverts to see how my persona should behave.

Separating "me" from my body and its actions and sensations might sound tricky. That art I had already learned in the labs and hospitals I frequent because of my systemic lupus erythematosus and other health problems.

There's just one problem with my persona. I still have to make the phone calls (and talk to live people!), write my talk, choose my outfit, and make travel arrangements myself. She does none of that.

But I'm working on it.

Do you have a separate persona for certain areas of your life? What does your persona do that you yourself can't or won't?


Writing this post, I realized that my persona has no name. Suggestions, anyone? Enter as many as five suggested names for my persona in the comments, along with your email address, by Memorial Day (May 31). The person suggests the name I like best will win a Like Mayflies in a Stream keychain-flashlight and bookmark as well as an Oriental carpet bookmark.

Thanks for dropping by! I'll be blogging at Novel Spaces again on Monday, June 7.

—Shauna Roberts


Jewel Amethyst said...

I've got a name for your other you: TONI


What do you think?

Shauna Roberts said...

JEWEL, that's a good name. I like both that it's totally not a name that fits the real me and that it's a constant reminder of who she needs to be.

Liane Spicer said...

I love Toni; can't think of anything to beat that!

Yeah, I hate public speaking, which is strange when you consider I spent most of my adult life teaching groups of teenagers and adults, so why should the mere thought of speaking to other kinds of groups make me come out in hives?

When I can't avoid it I too put on the mask of the extrovert. I even enjoy it, but afterward I'm such a wreck it takes me days to recover. Hm. Maybe that's why I was so utterly spent at the end of every day in the classroom...

Shalanna said...

I did this same thing--created an outgoing, extraverted public persona to wear--when I was in junior high school. You see, I'm a little older than some of y'all (ahem), and this was the mid-1970s. At the time, counselors and psychologists and parents ALL considered "SHYNESS" (which is what they called anyone who was less bold and outgoing then themselves) a MAJOR CHARACTER FLAW TO BE OVERCOME. They wanted to MAKE YOU STOP BEING SHY. It was painful to always be under scrutiny to see if you were "being shy." It got to the point that I wished to be invisible just so I could go through a school day without someone demanding that I speak up, say HI in the halls, etc. So . . . because I was already an actress (confined to minor roles because I wasn't the pretty little ingenue type), I said, "I'll develop a persona." I called it my "Melanie routine," because I modeled my character/persona on Melanie, a popular girl who seemed to be able to surf ALL the cliques and be everyone's friend or acquaintance without having enemies. It worked pretty well to fool the grown-ups and MOST other teens, so by the time I was in high school, I could slip into the persona for public viewing for longer and longer times. I still had to have some relief from people and crowds (at home, with family or maybe ONE close friend) to recharge my batteries and do my creative work (and I still do), but people seemed to accept that as long as I could be "ON" for most of the public day.

I'd suggest that you use the name of YOUR "Melanie." An actress, a friend, your sister . . . whoever it is you modeled your outgoing persona upon. Because I'll bet you did the same thing in studying what made people "outgoing" and modeling that!

Or "Toni" is just as good as anything, if you didn't come about the mask the way that I did. You should never forget that recharging your batteries is part of the INTROVERT persona. INTROVERT is not a dirty word! You should take the MBTI to see what your personality type is and then you can read about it to understand yourself better. I'm an INTP (in fact, I score 50/50 on I/E nowadays and can use Feeling almost as easily as Thinking, so I'm an "iNt+P" in the jargon), and that's rare . . . but I now can say, "It's NOT abnormal and NOT something that has to be "gotten over" in order to be a real person! It's just the way I am, and it's OK!"

Now, if I could only convince my family and the world of that. (wink)

Shauna Roberts said...

LIANE, glad you now are a writer and can spend your days alone.

SHALANNA, thank you for your long and thoughtful comment. I modeled my persona on my extrovert brother, so his name doesn't really work for my persona! I was in high school a little before you, and we didn't have an antishyness campaign at my school. I am very happy I missed out on that!

JEWEL, you win! "Toni" is my persona's new name. Please send your snail address to ShaunaRoberts [at] ShaunaRoberts [dot] com, and I'll get your prize out when I can. (I'll be out of town part of this week and next.)