Last Tuesday, July 16th, I successfully cleared another hurdle in my life—I was interviewed on the radio by Melissa Heisler on The Empowerment Show. The interview was about my experiences living in Saudi Arabia and my forthcoming novel, East of Mecca.
Being an introvert, I’ve always been terrified at the prospect of public-speaking. Over the past few years books and articles have touted the advantages of being an introvert—but all the research in the world can’t reassure an introvert about to make her very-first-ever radio interview about her very-first-ever published book. Besides, I know interviewing someone is a hard job—and I wanted to be a good interviewee.
Since I have spent months obsessing over the interview, everyone knew that I was nervous. One long-time patient who has made a successful career in theater told me, “Step into the role.” Now that it’s over, several people have asked me how I prepared for it. It helps that those people also said, “I could NEVER do it!”
First, I’ll say what didn’t help. While meant to be reassuring, being told to “Just be yourself!” does not help an introvert stricken with stage-fright. I’m great being myself all alone, with my closest friends and family, with my patients, and with acquaintances I know and trust. I can even be the life of the party when the party is comprised of a small circle of friends I’ve known most of my adult life.
I’m no stranger to panic attacks. Being “myself” while talking to a complete stranger about the most important thing in my life and having it broadcast into the ether felt like a set up for being reduced to monosyllabic mumbles, unintelligible grunts, or complete silence. Worst case scenario was breaking into a cold sweat and running from the room.
Pretending the interview was not going to happen and ignoring the approaching deadline also didn’t work. What helped was being over-prepared.
First, I decided what to wear. It sounds trivial, but over time I’ve realized that knowing what you’re wearing to an important event is a huge step toward reducing anxiety. Even better if your outfit feels comfortable and you know you look good in it. I knew there would be a video-clip of the interview going up on my website, so I wanted to wear something matching my “author image.” Easy choice—I wore the blouse I’m wearing in my book-jacket photograph. (And with that revelation I’m all set for future interviews—until my blouse wears out!)
Next, I planned what I wanted to say and what I wanted to be asked. I wrote it all out like a script and sent it to Melissa. She replied with thanks and said she hoped I would be able to relax so we could just “chat.” Ha! Fat chance, I thought, as I responded with a reassuring email. (At that point Melissa must have thought I was a complete control freak!)
Last Sunday, I took my script to my writing group, Write Club Fight Club (WCFC). I passed it out thinking that other members of the group would read the questions and I would read the answers—like a rehearsal! That lasted a millisecond into the first question, when Cathy (kick my ass) P. leapt from her chair and ripped the script from my hands. “No! You can’t read this! Just answer our questions!”
For the next half-hour, the group asked me questions (mostly off-script!) and I answered with whatever came to mind. We decided which passage from East of Mecca I should read on the show. I left WCFC feeling really prepared. I jotted down a few notes that had come out in our “interview” and put the script away.
Monday, the night before the show, I emailed a notice to everyone on my distribution list telling them about it. Immediately after, I had a total panic attack, took out the script, and re-read it until I fell asleep.
On Tuesday, I got up early and walked to the beach. It was a beautiful, warm, sunny day. I walked along the water’s edge imagining I was back in Saudi Arabia. I sat on my stone and meditated and prayed and was grateful for all the wonderful people who are on my team as I bring East of Mecca into existence.
Later, I went for a mani-pedi, choosing a rosy-red polish for my toes called “Exposed.” The rest of the afternoon, I gathered my materials together and got dressed. The drive to the studio in Schaumburg was long and rush-hour crowded, but my husband and I made it there early. And then I met Melissa, who was delightful—as smart and warm in person as she has been in all our correspondence. She immediately made me feel comfortable.
After the first few minutes of the interview, I relaxed into the role of being “myself.” I talked about my life in Saudi Arabia, my book, and the issue of empowerment—about which I feel most passionate. I never once looked at my notes and the interview went very well. Afterwards, I heard glowing reviews from family, friends, and WCFC.
This week my theater patient asked me how the interview went. I told her that I took her advice, to “step into the role,” and it worked. She laughed and said, “You gave me that advice, years ago. It always works.”
Please visit Melissa Heisler’s The Empowerment Show for more information.
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