“This is the book I wish I’d been given as a young adult. That would tell me it’s not only okay to be shy but better than that: it has benefits.”
In our most recent episode of Music Works, journalist, writer and online business phenomenon Annie Ridout talks about the loneliness of the freelance life, especially for new parents, and how shyness led her to a good place creating her own online business with its supportive online community.
We were intrigued by her take on shyness which is so often portrayed as a negative trait. In fact Annie has even written a book on the subject.
We wanted to pose some questions around this as we know music is a career built around performance which might presuppose that musicians must be extroverts (we all have those images of fiery conductors commanding the orchestra from the rostrum).
But we know that anxiety around performance can be crippling and, we also know all too well as music agents and managers, it can bleed into managing those aspects of a music career that happen away from the concert platform as well.
So, ask yourselves:
Do you perceive yourself as shy?
Or do you feel shy in particular areas of your experience as a musician?
Do you see other musicians as less shy and more successful?
Is this something you think holds you back?
If you have answered ‘yes’ to any of the above, do you believe this is something you can work to re-frame?
And last, but perhaps more importantly:
Do you feel there are also benefits that come with shyness?
Annie believes the answer to the last question is undoubtedly “yes.”
She told Music Works how she sees the ways that shyness can lead to you being more empathic, to being creative in a different way from the stereotypical view of the “flamboyant creative genius” – less Richard Wagner, and more Emily Dickinson.
The shy person tends to be thoughtful, introspective and observe the world in a different way, all of which she sees as a good thing.
Her mission in writing her book was to explore how this quality can be just that: a quality with all the associations that term brings, and celebrating it as a pathway rather than a barrier to success and happiness.
But she does also acknowledge that sometimes it can hold you back. So in the book she provides some tools for how to overcome that feeling of constraint which can be debilitating for some: tools to help the shy person “push yourself forward when you want to, when it feels right.”
Annie talked to Music Works about how shyness did hold her back from pursuing a musical career as a performer, and how she took a different path because of it – a path that has brought its own considerable success. And, she talked about how she was able to reconnect with herself as a musician over time.
She learnt classical piano as a child and then was fortunate to find a jazz pianist teacher with whom she really connected. She taught her to play and sing her own melodies. Annie remembers how, through her music A-level, she was writing songs like her idols, Carole King and Joni Mitchell.
Now she still plays the piano as well as the guitar, both classical and jazz, and writes songs on both. She feels comfortable now with where her shyness led her in terms of music and her career.
“In terms of performing, my shyness did hold me back. But then I took a different path because of it. And writing suits me and my personality and sort of being home on my own.”
The message is, not that you need to overcome being a shy person, but understand why you might feel that way, see the positive it can offer and be comfortable enough to accept how that can be a part of your journey as a musician.
As Annie says: “It’s part of your personality that you can choose to celebrate. That might just encourage you to work a bit harder and to not give up on your dreams.”
You can find out more about Annie, her courses, her podcast and her amazing following at: annieridout.com and therobora.com and on social media @annieridout
“Shy: How being quiet can lead to success teaches us how to embrace this misjudged attribute, instead of trying to fix it” is published by 4th Estate, an imprint of Harper Collins. You can find details here together with links to all the major online booksellers for you to order your copy today: https://harpercollins.co.uk/products/shy-how-being-quiet-can-lead-to-success-annie-ridout?variant=32623447343182