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"The irony of a working writer is that of a private person in a public position. Here's how I deal with shyness and stagefright."

Overcoming Fear of Public Speaking 😲


I get asked to do quite a few readings, interviews, talks. Maybe, as part of a literary festival, to promote a new book of mine, or a discussion on a podcast. Initially, my shyness got the better of me, and I would feel overwhelmed by such invitations and the prospect of presenting my work. I know that I'm not alone in feeling this way, as I learned that many fear public speaking even more than death!

But, over the years (a good decade and a half, now) I've grown more quietly confident about sharing my writing/thoughts and I can say practicing certainly helps. Breathing exercises help as well, to slow one's heartrate and, in turn, one's delivery. Ultimately, growing old(er) means feeling more comfortable in your skin, caring less what others think, or not sweating the small stuff (and, when you think about, it's all small stuff, really..)


So, yes, practice might not make perfect, as the saying goes, but being more familiar with one's material, hearing it read out loud, makes it less intimidating to recite it before an audience. Truth be told, stage fright, might never fully disappear, for some sensitive souls, but with conscious effort we can get better at channeling that powerful energy --even using the adrenaline to our advantage.

You could, of course, try having a drink or two to soothe your nerves. But, it’s a fine balance and important (as an experienced writer once told me) not to go too far and lose the tension necessary to deliver a focused and engaging reading.


Mercifully, I also get paid more to deliver these talks, lately, which is an incentive and a reminder others out there are actually interested in my work/I'm not forcing it upon them!

Here's a video of me at home, practicing for an upcoming poetry event:

Also, below is a poem I wrote about the anxiety I feel about public speaking. Perhaps, you will relate to it and, hopefully, you might also change your perspective about how you feel regarding your audience as well as what you have to offer--next time you are asked to speak in public.

Liberation Song

He walks with a convict’s gait
a dream-ravaged, slip of a man
formally summoned to confess
before a suspicious audience

He makes music with his chains
the one with wild, hunted eyes
disoriented and unaccustomed
to such confusion of light and sound

His throat burns so, he’s uncertain
how he might find a voice to utter
his strange sin to the huddled faces
attending his trial and to every move

Then, a hush descends as he’s introduced
by members of officialdom at a podium
and the crowd erupts into polite applause
for the invited poet at the reading.

© Yahia Lababidi


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