Sunday, 26 February 2017

On Being Shy (and awkward and a bit clumsy) - Eloise Williams



When I became an author I thought I would be able to live in a lighthouse.

My food would be sent up to me on a pulley and I would wave to the person in the delivery boat, and perhaps say a cheery ‘hello’, before I pulled my window tight shut and went back into my safe lighthouse world.

I had no idea that writing books would mean that I had to go out and about promoting them.

If I had known, I’m not sure I would have had the courage to start.


I’ve always been shy. Always. I was brave at my sixth birthday party and thought I’d dance on top of the piano to celebrate my bravery  for a change. I fell off. I think that’s one of the reasons I hid in books when I was young. I think that’s one of the reasons I write. It was definitely why I became an actor.


People think that actors are really brave, outgoing creatures, when very often the exact opposite is true. It’s a way of hiding yourself in someone else’s words. A bit like writing. It’s a way of expressing yourself without actually directly giving yourself away. A bit like writing, again.

When I realised that actually no-one was going to buy my book unless I got out there and told people about it, it came as an enormous shock. Then, after a bit of sobbing I decided that I would just have to get on with it. Hit it with enthusiasm. And I’m really glad I did.

I’ve done lots of events and school visits now and I’ve met some wonderful people.


For World Book Day 2017 I’ll be onstage with The Biggest Book Show on Earth and then at the Spread the Word Festival. I’ll be standing up in front of lots of people and attempting to talk to them about my books, and why books and reading are so important. I’m already nervous.

Last time I was onstage I forgot my words completely. It was a One Woman Show.

Another time, when I was part of a dancing group who were representing the Great Fire of London by becoming human flickering flames (I know, believe me, I know) I managed to pirouette into an audience member’s lap. It wasn’t part of the act. She wasn’t that pleased.


So, as the song goes, there may be trouble ahead, and I can never predict how shy, clumsy, or awkward, I’m going to be on the day. I just make the best of whoever I am at that moment in time and try my best not to fall over. Even if I do, there has always been someone there to pick me up and I’ve lived to tell the tale so far…


I wish that I could say that I wasn’t shy anymore. That all these experiences have made me flamboyant and confident. But they haven’t. They’ve just made me realise that there is a place for shy people in the world. That shyness is not weakness. I’m shy but I can still contribute and I can still be creative.
It has also taught me that children will always, without exception, be willing to help if you are honest. That children are kind and empathetic if you tell them that you are feeling nervous. That they will identify with you.

And that is why I can keep writing, and going to schools and events. And that is also why I know that I have found the right job. That by writing stories I really am connecting with people, through reading, and through meeting the most lovely, supportive crowd a person could ever hope to meet.

And though I still want a lighthouse, if I ever got one I’d probably get a little boat so I could pootle across to the mainland and do a few school visits.

Eloise Williams



Anne Booth said...

That's such a lovely post and very reassuring and funny. I totally identify. I am shy and awkward and a bit clumsy too, and yet I love doing school visits too. I get so nervous before and wiped out afterwards but, like you, I have found that children are great at accepting you for who you are and the feedback stays with you for months afterwards. For other shy people I have found costume helps - the simple act of wearing wings and a head dress helped turn me into what one child described as a 'grownup fairy', which was a relief for me and great for the 5 year olds. I think you sound like you do wonderful school visits, and you were brave to pirouette in the first place!

Susan Price said...

Eloise, I am with you. My brother-out-law actually lived in the last manned lighthouse and I've always been jealous of that - but my preferred home would be in a pele tower, with wall and drawbridge, on an island. Selected people would be allowed in, if I was in a good mood.
I do school outings too and am told I'm good at it, but it's always something that I have to stiffen the sinews for, not to mention summoning the spirit of the tiger. And afterwards, even if it's gone well, the spirit of the tiger hangs around, grumbling and snarling.
I'm in the thick of it for WBD too - so good luck to us both! May the day go well.

Sue Purkiss said...

Lovely post!

David Thorpe said...

Thanks for sharing this. After years of doing similar things I have come to the conclusion that everybody is shy, they have just got better ways at hiding it.

Penny Dolan said...

Lovely post, Eloise. Though I've visited several schools and libraries, I find the adults are harder to cope with and "read" than the children.

Hilary Hawkes said...

Love your post. I was another "shy" one too - but these days I do all sorts of non-shy things too. One of my favourite moments as a shy teenager was the day I got a Distinction for my Drama exam and the class loud, extrovert got a mere Pass. Ha!

Eloise Williams said...

Thanks for your comments. So glad to know I'm not alone! :)