Wednesday, May 16, 2012

DO YOU HAVE PHOBIAS…OR AM I THE ONLY ONE?

I don’t really have a long list of phobias; I don’t run screaming from mice or spiders or snakes, and while I don’t particularly like heights or being in water over my head, I can still ride the elevator to the top of a tall building and swim in a deep pool.  No, my biggest fear is of an inanimate object.

A microphone.

Now, a fear of microphones isn’t a bad thing…if you never have to get in front of one. But as an author there are ample opportunities to get up close and personal with a microphone. For a shy person, it can be a painful, humiliating experience as the microphone picks up every little tremor, every mispronunciation, and every mouse-like squeak. And isn’t it true, as a shy person that I am more self-conscious anyway? I think sometimes my shyness comes from my life-long struggle to be perfect. Intellectually, I know no one can be perfect. And yet I keep trying, and failing.

The microphone only magnifies this failing for everyone to hear. I learned this when I took piano lessons. Before each recital or competition, my mother would pull out the old tape recorder and set it up to tape me while I practiced. I learned to hate microphones then. Especially when, fancying myself a singer, I secretly tried recording songs—yikes! Who was that girl with the shrill, high-pitched voice? Certainly nothing like I imagined.

Somehow I ended up president of Dallas Area Romance Authors (1994)-really a great and supportive group of writers. But in looking back, just what was I thinking? I suppose when I first walked into my first DARA meeting that I felt so at home and so welcomed, I thought I could conquer the world. Here were people who “got me.” Each subsequent meeting only made me feel more powerful, who can fail with awesome writer friends--so what was a little microphone phobia?

Yet as the date approached for the first meeting with me as president, and I got to thinking about that microphone…um, yeah, not hard to guess.  Nerve city. I suppose I should have gotten some counseling for the phobia, but I was a busy homeschooling mom of (at that time) four young children. (Now, I have six but four are grown, still homeschooling the last two). There was no time in the schedule for visits to a counselor.

I had a writer friend who was also a college teacher—an awesome college teacher, I took her scriptwriting class and was never bored. She told me she practiced her classes beforehand. So I figured I’d try that. The whole talking in front of a mirror thing only made me more self-conscious, but I found I could drive around in the car and talk to myself. Which is what I did.

By the time January rolled around and my first meeting, we’d moved over an hour away from the DARA meetings. That gave me a whole hour alone in the car to practice and picture in my mind how the meeting would go--these days they’d call it creative visualization, but I didn’t know that at the time. But I’d picture myself in front of the microphone, picture how my voice would sound reverberating to me and practice what I was going to say. That worked really well for the first few months. Then,  one month I gave a ride to a friend and DIDN’T do my practicing and visualization (I figured it’d be okay, after all, I’d handled the microphone so far ) it didn’t go well. Right before the meeting I started worrying that I hadn’t practiced and I didn’t have time to conquer the nerves before I had to get in front of the microphone. That was a painful meeting for all involved, I’m sure.

I did think I had conquered this phobia even though I’d avoided microphones all the years since, until I made my first sale. At DARA they present you with a first sale rose and you get up and accept the rose and tell everyone what your book’s about—with the microphone. How had I forgotten that detail? So no, I had not practiced on the way. When I realized, pretty much last minute, that I was going to have to take that microphone, I started making mental notes, which is not the same as talking to yourself and visualizing how it will go. Too many people around, too many distractions and nerves had a chance to really take hold. When it was time to tell about my book, I took that microphone and pretty much went blank.

This experience taught me I’m never going to be over my fear of microphones, so the next time I will make sure to practice, practice, practice!

How about you? Do you have phobias? If so, how do you deal with them? If you’ve conquered them, spill!

Diana Layne is an award-winning author of PIRATE’S PROPOSAL, a swashbuckling pirate tale in The Tales of The Scrimshaw Doll series, and THE GOOD DAUGHTER: A Mafia Story (Vista Security prequel). Book 1 of the Vista Security Series, TRUST NO ONE (also her Golden Heart® final) is due to release the first of June. Check out her BLOG post to find out how to get an ARC of TRUST NO ONE (and to see the new cover), and her WEBSITE for buy links and to sign up for her newsletter to keep up with her releases.


41 comments:

  1. Hi Diana, (she waves),

    My only 'phobia' is being the center of attention, unless I'm in control. My sister's children recently had a huge birthday bash for their mother. If my kids did that, I'd disinherit them. BUT - I can speak in front of a group, practiced or impromptu,with no problem. Go figure.

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    1. (waving backatcha, Callie!) Nope, I don't think I'd like a surprise birthday bash either, I always feel awkward opening presents in front of someone--what if I hate it? Can I fake it? LOL But it's not the groups of people that bother me...if I didn't have a microphone I'd be ok, but something about my voice reverberating in my head just makes me freeze. Thanks for stopping by and sharing!

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  3. My phobia has always been driving in traffic. Cold sweats, shortness of breath, feeling faint...but guess what? My love of OKRWA overrode my fear of driving. My dear friend Tianne (also a non-driver) and I put the pedal to the metal and make our meetings in OKC every month. Oh, and I'm also phobic of grasshoppers!

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    1. Hey, going to an OKRWA meeting is great motivation to get over your fear! But grasshoppers...not sure about that...is it their sticky little feet or that the big ones spit? When I was little I was afraid of June bugs, those sticky little feet creeped me out. I once stayed awake all night because one got in my room and I was terrified it would land on me while I was sleeping!

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  4. Thanks for being here, Diana! I have several phobias, none too debilitating. I'm with Callie--I hate being the center of attention. Even though I've been a group exercise instructor for 10 years, I still have to psych myself up before every class and remind myself to make eye contact. :)

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    1. Oh, that eye contact thing! I was always told to look someone in the eye so they won't think you're lying--that can be painful! As for lying, I can't lie to save my life, whether I'm looking someone in the eye or not, lol. (Now writing lies, i.e. fiction, is a whole nuther thing.) Leading an exercise class for 10 years--how cool is that! Happy to be here, thanks!

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  5. Diana, when my step-sister and I were around twelve years old,the neighbor boys hid a covered butter tub under our house, with strict instructions not to open it. Of course, we opened it right away. To our horror, zillions of fat grasshoppers whirred out, sticking to every inch of our bodies and clinging to our long hair as we screamed. It was their fishing bait. Oh...and once I zipped a cricket up in my footie-pajamas.

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    1. I can only imagine that scene with the grasshoppers! Poor thing! And I just hate for someone to tell me not to do something and not tell me why! Oh, and a cricket in the footie-pajamas...ROFL. I bet that was awful!

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  6. I hate making phone calls. I always have. It's like I'm afraid to bother someone--even when it's their job to answer the phone. I have to talk myself into making calls. This can be a bit debilitating in today's world. Yes, I do have a cell phone, and buy my time by the minutes--I don't use too many. Unless I get to texting too much.

    On the wild life side--I'm petrified of spiders.

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    1. Phones! I used to love talking on the phone. With a house full of small kids (literally, I ran a home daycare and sometimes had up to 11 kids), it was my salvation. I had about a 50 foot extension cord on my phone so I could almost anywhere and talk (this was before we could afford a cordless). But then the Internet came along and something happened. I don't really like talking on the phone anymore and I use a pay by the minute phone too. I do most of my texting via SMS on my chat program, lol. How times have changed. As for spiders, definitely understand that one, the small tiny ones are kinda cute, but the bigger hairier ones I just as soon avoid.

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  7. My phobia is that I'm terrified and freaking out right now because I don't have any phobias!!! :-) Just kidding.

    When I was a child I had phobias. I was afraid of the witch in the Wizard of Oz--not the Wicked Witch of the West, but her sister, the Wicked Witch of the East because of the way her feet curled up when the house fell on her. I was also afraid of Werewolves, The Grand Canyon and sharks. Fortunately, none of those fears ever manifested into any tragedies for me.

    Anna, did the experience with the cricket in your footie pajamas happen recently?

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    1. Alicia, you should be freaking out--how do you get through life without phobias? :) I've never seen The Grand Canyon, from the pictures I can imagine that might be phobic inducing--it's a long drop to the bottom!

      LOL on Anna, re: recent experience with the cricket. (you were just joking, right? Anna?)

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    2. Glad the footie pajama/cricket mystery has been solved. :-)

      It's tough getting through life without phobias. I struggle with it every day.

      Yes, Grand Canyon. Long drop. My family and I went there when I was about eight and my father stood with his back to the rail and leaned back with his camera to take pics. I was terrified for him!

      BTW, I also LOVE thunderstorms.

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  8. Lizzie--I hate making phone calls, too. I'd forgotten about that phobia. I will pretty much do anything to avoid making calls. That's why I love text and email.

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    1. Text, email and chat programs--how did we survive without them?

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  9. Hahahaha Alicia! Guess I should've clarified that! Yes, a cricket really was in my footie pajamas, and I jumped in a circle around my room screaming with them unzipped, flapping around my ankles (which means I was naked from the waist up!) But, no, it wasn't recently. I was around ten years old. And I too am afraid of phone calls--the ones from sales people, and I also hate making business calls.

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    1. Oh, dear, I think that would have scarred me for life!

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    2. LOL. I wasn't sure if you still wore footie pajamas or not. Thanks for clearing that up.

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  10. Hi Diana!
    I don't know if I have any classical phobias, but I'm rather squeamish about ticks and I hate being home alone at night when there's a thunderstorm. Okay, maybe those are phobias! LOL

    Looking forward to reading The Good Daughter - it's download on my iPad! :)

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    1. Now, I love thunderstorms! (as long as the power doesn't go out). but ticks, can totally relate. One time in h.s. our PE class went fishing (it was some outdoors skill class), and I ended up with ticks all over my yellow shirt, it looked like moving dots. I was doing a bit of jumping around and screaming then--I have the feeling the teacher might've wanted to slap me, he was pretty unsympathetic. This was before we really knew how harmful ticks can be.

      Thanks re: The Good Daughter, hope you enjoy it! I have a promo going now if you want to leave a review and let me know where, then I'll send you an ARC of the next one (just in case you missed me splashing that on FB and Twitter, lol)

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  11. My phobia is putting my head totally under water and not being able to touch bottom if I'm in a pool. I nearly drowned as a kid and yes, I can't swim. One of the few things I wish I could do but the fear can be too much. I may take private lessons one day...when I'm 70.

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    1. I don't like my head under water either! I can do it, but for a long time I couldn't. I didn't nearly drown but I had a swim teacher push me under water once when I wasn't expecting it--I thought she was trying to kill me! We once lived in a house with a pool and as I had kids, I figured I better get over it, so I learned to at least dogpaddle and not panic if I was in water over my head. Still try my best to keep my head out of water though.

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  12. Hi Diana,

    Mine is really weird for a writer, but my fear is people reading my book! I know how crazy is that? I write about some horrific murders in detail in my villains POV and I guess I don't want everyone to think I'm demented! The closer I get to finishing my book the more terrified I become. Every time someone says, "I can't wait to read your book" my heart races.

    I also hate ticks! Yuck! Disgusting little suckers! If I find one on me I run around the house screaming, "Get it off me!" Texting is another thing I don't like to do. I rather call because it takes me twenty minutes to text someone a sentence. Guess it's my age or my eyesight!
    Loved the post,
    Diane Kratz

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    1. Diane, that's not really that uncommon of a fear. I have blocked myself before with a fear of success and even now, when I get a positive review, I panic. Can I do it again? Was this a fluke? The Artists Way is a good book for working through those kind of fears. It has helped me a lot, although I do hate morning pages.

      Sheesh, I just realized I'm really a bundle of phobias or barely conquered phobias, it's a wonder I ever go out of my house, lol! Actually I go out as little as possible, if it wasn't for the kids and all their activities, I'd happily stay inside writing all day every day. :)

      LOL on the ticks, can understand that! As for texting, I use a phone with a qwerty keyboard (not one of those touch screens) and it's much easier to text with it.

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    2. Hi Diana,

      Sorry to be chiming in so late. It's been a busy day...but I feel you on the public speaking phobia. I mean, isn't that why we became writers...to put words in OTHER peoples' mouths and not have to get up and say stuff ourselves? :-)

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    3. Hi, Barb, not that late! Understand busy! It's not so much the public speaking as it's that darned microphone. I once had a cute retired writer friend (male) who suggested that I think of it as a phallic symbol. Ummm...that didn't work, and I guess not so surprising that thought always comes to mind, which made things...worse. (No, I resisted saying harder, I did)LOL

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  13. I have a fear of public speaking. I was really shy as a kid. I'm not quite as shy now but I still hate to be the center of attention. I'm okay one on one, but put me in the center of a group of four or more and I'm going to stutter, turn red and develop a rash down my neck. I live in TX so turtlenecks only work about one month out of the year. LOL

    For my job with the court I had to give a presentation to a room of about 70 people 12 to 15 times a year. We could choose the dates we wanted, so I grouped mine all together so I could get them over with. The first was always awful. By the last I was more comfortable and things went better, but then it was done and I'd start all over the next year. I also had to testify in court all the time. Really not a pleasant experience for someone like me. I've also been President of my local Friends of the Library a few years and got a little better, but I don't think I'll ever get over it.

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  14. So true about the turtle necks! I learned I haven't gotten over my fear of microphones either, and so I suppose it's something to always be conscious of and I'll keep practicing (or not-maybe I can just avoid them from now on...) Thanks for sharing, Rhonda!

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  15. What a fun post and comments! I used to have a massive phobia around snakes ... scream with magazine thrown in the air and me running for another room if I turned a page and saw one ... not much use for National Geographics!

    I volunteered to be a 'subject' in a Neuro-linguistic Programming class I was taking and it was absolutely amazing. By the time we went through the desensitizing process, I was okay. Not that I want to pick one up but I can see one 'in person', see a picture of one, see one on t.v.,etc. and not freak out.

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    1. Hi, Judith, thanks for stopping by! A phobia about snakes is certainly understandable! I had a best friend in middle school who LOVED snakes, had them as pets, so I had to deal with snakes if I went over to her house. She actually taught me a lot. I've never heard of the Neuro-linguistic Programming, it sounds fascinating.

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  16. It is fascinating! There is an element of self-hypnosis and I learned a lot about body language (where we automatically look when we are trying to recall or access actual memory as well as what we do when we are making things up). There are some good books out there. It's been a long time but one of my favorites had something about frogs in the title.

    Now that I've brought it up, I think I'll dig out those books and see what might fit for one of my characters. Thanks for stirring the creative juices!

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    1. I'm going to look that up as well, thanks!

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  17. Story re microphones: I have a friend whose kids go to a really good public school. Each class has a microphone ... and every day, each child tells the class something using the microphone. My friend says her kids are _amazing_ at public speaking now. They just grab the mic and talk to a crowd like they're speaking to a friend. Interestingly, when parents visit the class the teacher requires them to use the mic too. My friend said she was really nervous--not used to hearing her voice boom out over the room. But now she's gotten to enjoy it.

    My phobia is claustrophobia. But it's only extreme claustrophobia--fear of being locked in a car trunk, etc. That's unlikely to happen, but if I watch a movie with a car trunk death scene when I'm really tired I can feel a little panicky at the thought of some serial killer getting his hands on me ...

    For anyone with public speaking fears, I hear Toastmasters is great.

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    1. Oh! What an awesome school! Learning to use the microphone and public school is such a valuable skill. Our church does something similar-my daughter and son have no problems with the microphone, just me. Claustrophobia--eep, I never think about getting locked into a car trunk-or buried alive-except as a possible plot device, but that would be awful, agreed!!

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  18. I'm phobic of mice. It's been around for years.

    My husband never believed it was as bad as it is. I'd told him, but since I avoided all things rodent, he'd never seen it. So one day, we were in Petsmart and, unbeknownst to me, he picked up a life like toy mouse. Calls me over and say, "Meg, look at this."

    He then proceeded to have it "jump" out of his hand, where it hit me in the chest. Funny, funny man!

    Unfortunately, my fear of public embarrassment had not been enough to override my rodent phobia, and I screamed bloody murder right there in the store. Good times. J

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    1. ROFL, I'm sorry, I can't help but laugh imagining that scene! You poor thing! Guess he'll believe you from now on, huh?

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  19. What about the small ones that you can pin on clothes? My phobia is with dogs. Made worse years ago when I was chased by an Alsatian, on purpose. Never liked big dogs since then.

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    1. You know, I've never tried a small microphone that you can pin on your clothes. That might actually work! I can understand having a dog phobia when one chased you-that had to be terrifying!

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  20. Oh, I have a squeaky voice so I am terrified of microphones. They're awful. I can't even fake public speaking because I talk too fast. :)

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  21. Haven't tried a microphone yet, but I loved to tell stories to my classmates in high school. They seemed to enjoy them because they'd skip break time to hear the ending. Cockroaches, I totally dislike cockroaches. Ever since one crawled up my leg and I squashed it in a panic, I can't stand them. Yuck!

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