Embarrassment

I’m sure you all remember I was reading “Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert to prepare and inspire myself to write this novel that’s been stuck in my head for a while. 

I finished reading “Big Magic” a few weeks ago, and it was AMAZING!! Definitely inspired me to get up early and just write every day. Seriously, I’m in love with her ideas on creativity and her ability to usher people into a creative mindset. 

But that’s not what I’m here to talk about today. I’m here to talk about embarrassment. 

The event was hosted jointly by the Nashville Public Library and Parnassus Books, owned by another successful author, and Liz Gilbert’s friend, Ann Patchett. Ann prepared notes and questions to lead Liz through the night, which turned out to be more of a discussion between two creative souls that just happened to be witnessed by hundreds of people. 

I was totally enthralled for the first hour, and then the Q&A session began.

I had a burning question. It’s not really all that relevant to me anymore since I have a job now where I’m not writing the news every single day, but I still wanted to hear her thoughts on the matter. My question: How does one summon creativity after a day of writing sad, stressful, deadline-oriented articles. 

You see, writing general news stories can be very mathematical in that there is an equation to each story: lede, nutgraf, quote, paraphrase, quote, research, quote, paraphrase … you get the picture. Because of Miss Gilbert’s experience as a journalist, I thought she might be able to provide some insight to this.

So I had this question prepared in my mind. My anxiety-riddled soul, who is sometimes terrified to simply have a meal with a friend, was fully prepared to get an answer to the question. My creative soul was more curious than my anxious soul was scared. And so I raised my hand. 

Of course, they didn’t call on me first. I was sitting in the very last row, dead center to both speakers. Then Ann pointed at me and said something like, “In the very back.” I pointed my already raised hand at my head, and received a nod in return. 

So I stood up and began nervously and absentmindedly (because I momentarily forgot my question) and began, “Hi, my name is Allison! …”

Did I mention there were hundreds of people?

Turns out when Ann said something like, “In the very back,” she added, “in the balcony.” I hadn’t heard that by then because my mind was already racing to find my question and stand up like a normal human being. I wasn’t sitting in the balcony. I didn’t even know there was a balcony. 

And so, gently, Grant tugged at my arm and said she hadn’t called on me. I felt my face go hot and all sorts of noise rush through my ears. 

I. Shut. Down. 

I didn’t hear the rest of the presentation at all. I just wanted it to be over and to get out of that room.

Grant and I went for a bite to eat after. While I was washing my hands before I ate, I ran into a girl who I’d seen at the parking meter and was going to the same show. 

“Oh hey, I saw you at the parking lot,” she said. “We were both going to see Liz Gilbert.”

“Oh,” I said. “Then you saw my embarrassing moment.”

“Oh my gosh, you’re Allison?” she said. 

Sigh. 

She saw my face and continued, “Don’t worry about it, not very many people heard you. It was kind of cute, anyway.”

It did kind of make me feel better, but I was still a little upset about the incident.  

When I got home, Grant comforted me and told me that it wasn’t that big of a deal. No one would remember me or care later. He’s right. But I still felt like yuck. 

It took a whole day to get over it, but I did. And I think that’s the lesson I learned. That, yes, I’m going to be embarrassed for a while after something like that. Who wouldn’t? But people get back to their lives and become engrossed in whatever they’re experiencing at the present moment. It’s interesting how fleeting things like that can be. 

Thinking about it later, the whole incident kind of reminded me of a chapter in “Big Magic” called “Nobody’s Thinking About You.”

“People don’t have time to worry about what you’re doing, or how well you’re doing it, because they’re all caught up in their own dramas,” Miss Gilbert writes. “People’s attention may be drawn to you for a moment (if you succeed or fail spectacularly and publicly, for instance), but that attention will soon enough revert back to where it’s always been–on themselves.”

She says a great deal of release can be found in this notion, and that you are free because everyone is “fussing over themselves to worry all that much about you.”

Once I was out of the situation and back in real life, I remembered this part of her book and the embarrassment melted away. Now it’s just a funny story to tell at parties. 

So thank you, Miss Gilbert, for helping me get through an embarrassing situation at your very own presentation about not worrying what others think about me. 

And anyway, the whole incident was kind of worth it. I did get a signed book out of it. 

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