Hello, shy persons everywhere!
I, also, am a shy person who has learned to enjoy giving talks.
I also have gotten over a lot of the terrible writer's block I used
to have in school and as an undergraduate.
The magical cure? HAVING SOMETHING TO SAY! I used to absolutely dread
having to write long term papers, or stand up and give talks. Then, the first
time I was in a position where I knew more about my subject than my audience
(in my case, an essay in my application back to college after dropping out), I
discovered that the words just flowed, and I even enjoyed it. I realized that
the pressure before was from the artificial situation of trying to tell someone
something new and interesting about a subject that we both knew they knew more
about than I did. (Which, of course, is how most school assignments turn out.)
So the dreaded PhD thesis, and the first public talk, were much less
painful than I expected. I knew I had a great story to tell, and I was the
world's expert on it. An immensely liberating feeling. I recommend it to all
who are currently living in that dread. (Getting the words onto the page is
still like sweating blood, and good final versions requires lots of drafts or
practices, but the results really are good.)
Now, I actually enjoy teaching. Those students are there to learn
something from what I have to tell them. It is still a lot of work to organize
my lectures so the material is presented in a way that is effective for them to
learn from, but lecturing with a purpose is immensely more fullfilling than
lecturing as an exercise!
Laurel F. Appel
Dept. of Biology