“Are You a Writer?” – And…Cue Extreme Shyness

I’ve always been shy. Not just a little quiet, or kind of bashful, but extremely, painfully shy. A few years back, I was listening to some talk radio show one day and they were talking about Asperger’s Syndrome. They started listing some of the more common symptoms, and I thought, Holy crap, that’s me! I can’t say for sure I really do have it, and if I do it’s definitely a mild case, but I do share some of those common symptoms. The big one being avoiding eye contact.

I’ve gotten better at it over the years, and if I’m having an important conversation with someone I’ll force myself to make at least occasional eye contact, but if I’m left to my own devices I’ll look someone in the eye somewhere between rarely and never.

Friday I was at work, on my lunch break, busily typing away at my Work In Progress. One of my neighbors in my little block of Cubicleland popped her head up over our shared partition to ask me a question. I turned around to answer her, and I made a point to look up and make eye contact. As I was talking, I noticed her eyes had shifted from me to the page of text on my computer. By the time I was finished I wasn’t even sure if she’d heard anything I’d said.

She nodded, said “Uh-huh,” then paused and said, “Are you a writer?”

Why, yes, I am. I just submitted a novella to a publisher (fingers crossed!), have another that I’m almost done editing, and I’m currently working on my first novel.

Ah, what an answer that would’ve been. Or even ‘Why, yes, I am,’ would have sufficed. Or just a simple ‘Yes.’

Instead, I froze. My eyes began to dart around, and I found myself completely unable to make eye contact. I came just short of picking up pieces of paper and trying to cover up my monitor, and stammered, “Uh, I – well, um…I write.”

What the hell?

My cubicle neighbor gave me an appropriately odd look for such an odd response, and said, “So, yes?”

“Um, yeah, I guess.” I began to feel hot, and just wanted the conversation to end. I swear to God, I haven’t felt like that in years. I was completely overcome with the devastating shyness I used to feel as a kid. I thought that all that was in my past, for the most part. Obviously, I was wrong.

So, what’s the deal? Was it just because I wasn’t expecting to be asked out of the blue like that? Surely it can’t be this hard to talk about my writing all the time, right? Jesus Christ, I hope not.

On that note, isn’t writing one of those things where the criteria for being a writer is just that you write? ‘I write, therefore I am…a writer?’ Evidently, there’s some stigma in my subconscious that I’m not a legitimate writer yet, but when am I?

Does anyone else deal with this type of self-doubt, and if so, when does it end? When did you finally stop doubting yourself and proudly call yourself “A Writer?”