The Shadow over Portsmouth: 58,555
Player Choice: 104,352
Confession time: I can have a difficult time with social interactions, including but not limited to public speaking. I’ll focus on the speaking angle today, though. Each speaking gig that I have takes a lot of preparation beforehand to get into the proverbial “zone.” Writers today are supposed to be enthusiastic performers as well, sort of like how musicians today must tour and no longer have the option of just hiding in the recording studio. It’s the harsh voice of economic reality. If you write, you have to be able to talk about the book, to the media and particularly to eager audiences.
So I joined the local chapter of Toastmasters a little while ago. I went to a few meetings to just check out the scene first, and I did a couple of brief, impromptu speeches, amazed in spite of myself at how easily my tongue would tie itself into knots. When The Great Typo Hunt came out last year, my epic book tour included countless radio and TV interviews, including ABC World News, CBS Sunday Morning, and the Today Show (see below), for cryin’ out loud. Yet I couldn’t come up with “someone I’d like to meet from history” off the top of my head, for God’s sake. I guess I’ve always done better with prepared lines and canned points, which was largely what the Great Typo Hunt interviews were all about– well-practiced answers to the same questions over and over again. I did a little acting in high school and college. I can memorize a monologue.
But extemporaneous speaking– pretending like you’re a persuasive or at least interesting human being– that’s tough, man. For me, it’s tough. While we’d gotten a positive response from the audience for our Great Typo Hunt talk last month at the Wonderful World of Words weekend, and Will Shortz seemed to enjoy it, he still did mention that my delivery reminded him of Norm MacDonald. It wasn’t what I was going for, but it did make me think. Jane mentioned something about figuring out how well-known people with my type of dry speech use it to their advantage, which is something to keep in mind. I know I’ll never be the most energetic communicator, but I could certainly settle for dryly funny. It worked for Bill Murray, yes?
Side note: totally not feeling the Player Choice side of things tonight. Think it’s time to abandon ship.