Site icon Kanchana Banerjee

Winning over my worst fear

This picture was taken in 2014 at the Bangalore Literature Festival during Lit-Mart. For those of you who don’t know what Lit-Mart is, it’s a contest where aspiring authors submit a 300-word synopsis of their manuscript. 25 candidates are selected, and they are invited to attend the Lit Mart, where they present a 3-minute pitch to a panel of judges – senior editors and literary agents.

In 2014, I was among the chosen 25 to present my pitch. I had finished writing my debut book. With zero contacts in the publishing industry, this was an excellent opportunity to connect with editors. At Lit Mart, a senior editor from HarperCollins, one of the judges liked my pitch and requested the entire manuscript. She helped my manuscript make its way through the rounds of review. As a result, I published my first book in 2016 – A Forgotten Affair with Harper Collins.

But I’m not writing the post to tell you about Lit Mart and how I got my first book published.

The picture on the top and my current self…we are 2 very different people. For starters, I weighed much less in 2014 than I do now. I used to chemically straighten my hair; now, I don’t. I’ve written and published 3 books; 4th is complete & currently writing my 5th. (You can read about my published books, by clicking on My Books)

But there’s more. What you can’t see in the picture is a woman whose knees were trembling and knocking into each other. My heart was in my throat, and I was finding it difficult to breathe. How I spoke for 3 mins and impressed 2 editors from 2 reputed publishing houses is a mystery. I guess the story did its magic because I was a nervous wreck. Guess, you can’t stop a story that wants to be told and heard.

I have never ever been a confident speaker. Standing up and facing a crowd, speaking to them, is something I was never, ever comfortable with. During my teen years, I used to stammer. A simple thing, like standing up in a class and reading a passage, used to terrify me.

But that day, I silenced my fears and apprehension. I went to the washroom before the session began and spoke to myself. Looked at myself in the mirror and said, for God’s sake, for your sake, don’t mess this up by being you. Don’t chicken out. This is your golden chance to connect with editors of reputed publishing houses. Don’t lose this opportunity.

Also, my son had told me, “Mom, don’t read from the pages. Just talk about the story. YOu’re passionate about the story. So just speak.” That’s what I did.

I think a time comes when we need to scold ourselves. When we need to have that chat with ourselves, we need to get out of our way. Often, what holds us back is our fears, insecurity, and reluctance to win over it.

We are the biggest hurdle. Overcoming this is probably the most challenging thing to do. But I did it that afternoon. When you face your fears, when you look them in the eye, you usually win. So, I won that day, and no, I’m not talking about clinching a contract with one of the leading publishing houses in the country.

I won over my fear of public speaking. After my book was published, I attended lit fests, interviews, radio shows etc., as part of my book promotion. My knees didn’t shake anymore. My heart stayed in the chest cavity and didn’t jump into my throat. No one believes me when I tell them that I used to be terrified of public speaking.

Do what you are terrified of and watch yourself be born anew.

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