It can start with the smallest of things… An action. A look. A feeling. Words. It can become a stream roller, a game changer, a life changer… Or, “D”, none of the above:
Losing a parent at a very young age certainly doesn’t help matters. And having an absent father isn’t a great thing either.
But perhaps the start of a young boys woes may just as well have begun in first grade. It was Beth Yeshurun day school. During art class, each child was given an easel, paint, a paint brush, and a miniature plastic toy dinosaur. The class was instructed to paint the dinosaur. The class proceeded to paint the dinosaur (on the paper on the easel). One little boy looked at the teacher, shrugged his shoulders, and painted the dinosaur. Yes, he dipped the brush in paint and slopped it right on top of the miniature plastic dinosaur. The other kids laughed. The teacher got angry. The boy got sent to the office. On the way to the office he was heard saying, “But you said paint the dinosaur.” So much for thinking outside of the box.
It was third grade at Shearn Elementary School. This boy’s class was doing a play about pollution (and the end of the world as we know it). It was the 1960’s, so what do you expect? Now it’s called Global Climate Change Warming, or some other foo foo term someone thought up at Starbucks. Well, of course he didn’t want to be in the play. I mean, all those people staring at him. Just him. Nobody else. Or so he thought. Kids can be such narcissists. When he was supposed to recite his line, and please excuse the gun reference, he was sweating bullets. Yes, as you can well imagine, he froze up like Frosty The Snowman. And no, he wasn’t a happy jolly soul.
Fast forward to a little green valley deep in the south land. A ranch camp for boys and girls named Echo Hill Ranch. His bunkhouse was doing pillow case skit night. Most of the kids loved it. He loved watching. Not so much for participating. Everything went great until his part arrived. All he had to do was to pretend to rope a cow. It really looked more like he was doing Mr. Roboto. He froze up. What can I say? He wasn’t a fan of crowds.
He avoided parties, movies, and sporing events like the plague. All those people made him nervous. Later on in his life, he got married. He managed to muddle through the wedding crowd. Although, a funny thing happened at the weeding. His wife was dancing with him and her shoe fell off. He finagled a glorious (if not somewhat embellished) tale of how her shoe flew off, hit some man in the head, and knocked him out cold. He did this so he wouldn’t have to do the White man shuffle (dance) in front of people any longer. He also learned at that moment, he had a knack for story telling.
Fast forward a little further, and he decided he wanted to become an author. So, he did. He wrote a fabulous novel. He knew it was good. The few people who read it, loved it. Then the dilemma. How does somebody who is socially challenged sell and promote books? How does someone who’s not a ‘people person’ get people to buy and read his books? How will they even learn about it if no one tells them about it?
His editor told him he better get with the program and become a salesman if he wanted to sell books. He would need to learn how to sell himself and his books. But how? Well, he started in the shower. He talked to himself and practiced his one-liners. His wife thought he may be going insane. Gradually, he started telling folks about his book. It wasn’t easy for him. He was awkward at it. Somehow, people took notice of the book and began talking. Word of mouth is pretty powerful.
Then, his big break came. A young lady heard of him and asked him if he would speak to her congregation. She said they were really trying to get a pretty famous local radio show host named Sam Malone, but he was busy. And they couldn’t get ANYONE else to come speak to them. It was a huge moral builder. NOT! But he went anyway. He got up in front of about thirty people and the tale of his novel and himself just came spewing out. It started slowly. And he didn’t even have a senior moment like Rick Perry (Governor Goodhair) during a presidential debate when he forgot what he was talking about. He added a few jokes here and there. As he nervously looked around, he noticed people were actually listening and apparently even enjoying it. Confidence level? On the rise. People even bought books.
Then, he had a brainstorm. Why not go to book signings and watch (and learn) how authors interact with their audiences. In fact, he could even borrow (steal) some of their mannerisms and material. Strangely enough, one of the first authors was Austin Kleon taking about his book: Steal Like An Artist. Must be something to this. This was obviously a sign. This man was getting tutored. He hit the jackpot when he saw Kinky Friedman reading his book: Heroes of A Texas Childhood. Cha-Ching! Score! His book selling alter-ego was born.
His first book signing was at a relatives lovely quite large house. He got there. At first he was nervous. It was called for 6:00. Hardly anyone was there. Would people show up? Would he be speaking only to a few people and some very lovely Golden Retrievers? Oh, the humanity! He was sweating bullets again. But then, a strange thing happened. People began flooding in. In fact, one hundred people showed up. Wow! Confidence level? Rising! He gave a great performance. He read from his book. People laughed. People listened. People bought books. A lot of books. They even stood in line to get the books autographed.
The alter-ego took over after that. In the public, he was a witty, self-confident, cigar smoking, whiskey drinking, wise-cracking, sarcastic entertainer. Things went so well, he acquired a fan base. And they wanted to know when his next book would be out. So, he wrote another book. This time one-hundred-and-fifty people showed up to his book signing. And boy howdy, were they entertained. Book sales were good!
Now, he’s working on his third book and even wrote a beautifully illustrated children’s picture book. It just took a little coaxing and some positive interaction for his true self to shine. Anyone can do it. The dirty little secret? He still doesn’t like crowds. He’s quiet and unassuming. He doesn’t like to be noticed. He’d rather talk to his dogs than people. You would never know that at book signings and functions. Sometimes you’ve just got to go with the flow and fight to conquer your inner demons. This man did. And so can you. Don’t believe me? Check out Katie Cross’ Confessions of A Chubby Girl. But watch out. If her fantastic writing doesn’t hook you, her wit and charming smile surely will.
If you want something bad enough, you’ll find the path. You will!