Friday, June 4, 2021

The Human Mambo by Josh Stallings

 Q: Would you consider yourself an introvert or an extrovert? What strengths and/or weaknesses come with this personality type in regards to book publicity and marketing, and how do you mine your strengths?

A: Writing is by its nature an introverted job, long hours spent lost in my thoughts. Some days I only speak to the creatures in my head. People who know me find it odd when I say I used to be shy, comfortable in small groups of friends but crowds freaked me out. The idea of reading in front of actual people caused panic. Echoes of growing up dyslexic, partly fear of being exposed as a fraud, a con-person, and partly I fight to write with honesty and that leaves me feeling vulnerable.

I have learned to let my inner extrovert flag fly. Here are some things that have changed me: 

1) I’m coming up on three decades of sobriety. In that time I’ve done a lot of public speaking, and I’ve learned not to over plan or get too cute with what I say. Just tell my truth. Plus my pal Nino once told me not to worry, most people are too busy looking inward to hear what you say anyway. 

2) As for readings, I once messed up a paragraph and instead of stopping I ad libbed until I found my way back to the text. I figured out I wrote the damn thing, I could do a verbal re-write if I chose. No one noticed, except the audio book narrator who happened to be there and Erika. Flow and performance were more important than exact words.

3) For panels, if I’m moderating I massively over prepare. Early on I was lucky enough to be on a panel moderated by Katrina Niidas Holm, she did serious research. I use her as the benchmark for how much preparation is needed. I always plan too many questions, then never fear of running out. On the day of, I forget all the prep and really try and listen to my fellow writers. And THAT is the key to enjoying being on a panel, listening. Actually that’s the key to everything.

When I find myself getting “self-conscious” in large groups, the answer is to shift my consciousness from self to others. Look for a lost new writer and ask them how they’re doing, and then really listen when they answer. It seems so obvious as I type it out, “Feeling self-conscious? Don’t focus on self.” Yet it’s easy to forget.


The truth is I love people, how we think, how we behave. The human mambo is fascinating. It’s the core of all writing. When I step outside my head, stop looking inward, I get to see the greatest show on earth, us.

I guess the answer is, I’m both. An introvert when writing, or doing any creative work. An extrovert when doing readings and panels and Zoom talks. Both have their place in this wild ride of getting stories out of my head and into yours. 


Susan C Shea said...

" Feeling self-conscious? Don’t focus on self.” Wise, wise advice. Thanks, Josh. I love your posts here.

Josh Stallings said...

Thank you Susan. It would be wise if I remembered these simple ideas, maybe say before I get the chain wrapped around my axle.

Brenda Chapman said...

Love this post and your advice on focusing on others instead of yourself. I hope we meet up at one of those events one day :-)

Josh Stallings said...

Brenda, are you going to BCon this year?