Write of What You Know: Tackling Shyness

There’s a saying in the literary world, “write what you know.” For the most part, I think it just means internalize the world around you, write about people, about how you interact with your families, your friends, how we as humans deal with life, love, and loss.

Sometimes, though, something personally affects you to such an extent that you feel a need to confront it in your writing. My current effort, “A Blush of Magic,” is an attempt to do just that.

My heroine, Shana, is not me. She came from a very different background, had experiences that I haven’t.  She stands at a crossroads in her life, desperate to feel a part of the world, break out of her isolation, find friendship and experience love. She is held back by something that I have battled for as long as I can remember: shyness.

It is also known as social anxiety disorder. Neither word, though, really conveys what it actually is. It’s not being a little bashful around people, occasionally blushing, being a little less outgoing than others. For many people it’s a feeling of isolation from the rest of the world. Often the thought that you are somehow different, that you stand on the outside, looking through the glass at a world that you just don’t know how to be part of. The art of the social conversations eludes you.

I’m saying ‘you,’ but the experience is obviously a little different for everyone. I can only say what it’s been like for me.

The fictional Shana does find help with from new friends, a wonderful man, an inspiring book, and a touch of magic, but real life doesn’t usually work that neatly.

I am happy to say that I am working on my issues with the help of a couple of great books by an author called Leil Lowndes (she was very gracious about allowing me to use some excerpts in my novel). The progress, however, is slow and it’s a constant effort not to back slide.

There are many times when I would love more support and understanding, but I’m sorry to say that it doesn’t seem to be there in the wider community and I have looked. I live in a big city, but there is not any kind of support group for social anxiety in the area, at least not one that is easily found. There is support to be found on-line, but members of such groups are often spread out, sometimes on different continents.

I’m not sure if it’s a result of society itself or caused by internalized expectations, but shyness is not something that people talk about. It’s not something most people would actually admit to, let alone ask help for. And so it remains a disorder cloaked in isolation and it will do so unless we reach out.

I am climbing off my soap box now and asking for a conversation. If anyone who reads this has experiences with this disorder that they would like to share or hints for things that have worked for them, I would be happy to listen and talk.

In my next blog I’ll be turning to something lighter and posting an amusing little writing exercise I did to get to know my characters better. I hope you’ll come back and read it.

If you are interested, the two books I talked about by Leil Lowndes are “Goodbye to Shy” and “How to Talk to Anyone.”

Have a great weekend.


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Maryska
    Mar 06, 2011 @ 01:10:13

    This is beautifully written. I struggled with this problem a lot when I was a teenager but found that part of the problem (for me anyway, not everyone is the same) is that I WAS different than most of my peers. I went out of my way to find not necessarily support groups, but groups of people who shared my interests. I was super shy even when I started hanging out with like-minded people but it got easier and our shared interests helped. I don’t know what happened but at some point I realized that I was over it. This was sometime in my early twenties I guess. I can talk to most people now cold turkey.

    Now I just mostly avoid people out of choice. I just don’t like many of them lol.


    • roseconnelly
      Mar 06, 2011 @ 12:43:27

      Finding like-minded people can be a struggle, but I’m working on it. It may sound a bit mean, but it makes me feel a bit better to know you went through the same thing and came out the other end. Thanks for the support.


  2. Sally
    Mar 06, 2011 @ 13:15:59

    A support group for socially anxious people would probably be like a group for procrastinators. Everyone would be too shy to show up. A group of procrastinators would never have anyone. They would all arrive at different times due to putting it off.


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