For the longest time, I’d mumble my name and shrink into the wall or chair before anyone could ask any questions. My unimportant life, my unimportant work, my unimportant projects and workplaces.
I recently watched King Joffrey (Jack Gleeson IRL) make a funny, astute speech to the Oxford Union. In it, he talks about celebrity culture and how weird he finds it all – surprisingly, he’s not a detestable figure, unlike his on-screen persona. What I can’t get past in this speech is how much he puts himself down.
The speech starts with the obligatory “I’m not sure why I was asked to talk, but here we are” mumblings, and that’s fine. They might be a way of calming nerves, or just a comfortable way to ramp up into the speech. But Gleeson goes further.
“Apologies for the length and boring nature of this,” he says. “ … Feel free to switch off at any point during it.”
JACK (/Joffrey)! What are you DOING?! You’ve got a room full of scholars you who think very highly of what you do (else they wouldn’t have shown up), and you’re about to speak intelligently about something you know well. Why would you undercut yourself like that?
And then I realised – I’m rubbish with this sometimes too. I still get embarrassed or flustered and my “unimportant life” thoughts make me mumble and shrink.
I’ve noticed this a lot – this inability to own what we do. While we enjoy our jobs or projects, and want them to be known and loved, we feel presumptuous owning up to them when the time comes. Why would anyone care?
Well, in day-to-day circumstances they probably wouldn’t, and there's no need to tell the checkout person that you're a screenwriter. But it's usually not hard to do that anyway. Where it's hard is at industry events. Launches, socials, festivals and the like. Surrounded by people who we assume are much more important than we are. The thing is, we network to get to know the people in our community and an industry that we’d like to be part of.
Jessica Alice, poet, editor and jill-of-all-trades, also expressed some of the same hesitations about introducing herself:
“It took me a while to be able to say 'I'm a poet' without inwardly (and sometimes outwardly) cringing, because it seems like such a terribly huge statement. But if these are things that you spend time on/are known for/publish/ make money from, and if it's something you want other people to know about you, you need to get used to saying it.”
Rosanna Stevens, in last week’s podcast, said something similar.
By introducing ourselves at industry events with our job information, we’re helping to demystify the “scene”, instead of forcing people into a sneaky Google in the bathrooms, or furtive (mental or actual) note-taking for later. Cloaks and daggers do not serve you.
All it takes is a warm smile, a handshake, and “Hi, I’m (your name). I (your occupation).” Own what you do – be proud of your work, and let others know about it. Remember the “serendipity multipliers” from Connor Tomas O’Brien’s interview? Introducing yourself with confidence is one of them.
We’ve got heap of networking and get-together events coming up, so come along and let us know who you are – and what you do!
TONIGHT there’s a Write Here meet-up in Sydney at 6pm, hosted by Geoff Orton.
Parramatta would love you to join in a Write Here too, on the 15th February at Mars Hill Café, and hosted by Bel Vidal.
On the 25th February, we’re holding a short story workshopping group in Wooloomooloo at Old Growler.