|Candy Piercy, Emily Benet, Emma Ward, Judy Oliver and Dame Tessa Jowell|
'On the panel we have four women who have been very successful in their fields,' our host said.
And if it had been a film I'd have cut to a shot of my bank account.
At least I'm in credit. Just. But neither an amount you'd associate with 'very successful'. I had just finished a Make it Happen With Social Media workshop at the Progressive Women Leadership Conference. Well sod the money, I had managed to make a lot of things happen.
I was on a panel with Candy Piercy, a leadership and political trainer and Judy Oliver, who had just run a 'Set Up Your Own Business' workshop. Oh... and did I mention Dame Tessa Jowell?
It was all Emma Ward's fault, a member of Progressive Women, who had come to my Blogging for Beginners and Improvers Workshop a few months ago. At the end of it she'd told me she'd really enjoyed it and would I do a workshop for a charity event she was organising later in the year. Without knowing any more details, I said YES.
I'm getting good at saying YES. I like where YES takes me.
Once upon a time I was a shyer girl than I am today. But when Shop Girl Diaries was published I learnt that it's not enough to get your book published, you also need to sell it, and to do that you have to say goodbye to your comfort zone. Since then I've done quite a bit of public speaking.
Someone asked a question. There was hesitation from the panel. Something about partners taking half the responsibility for... for what? Chores? Kids? No one went to answer so I opened my mouth and words tumbled out. In my head a voice cried, where the hell are you going with this? And more importantly, what was the question?
When you step outside your comfort zone of course you can screw up. But as the modified saying goes, show me a woman who has never made a mistake and I'll show you a woman who hasn't achieved very much, or tried anything new, or... you get the drift.
After that initial muddled answer, I calmed down and focused. Public Speaking gets easier the more you do it. I still get nervous, but it excites me too. I love the rush, the feeling of overcoming the fear and afterwards knowing that I've grown a little bit more.
Another question came. Concentrate. Advice on leadership? Success?
'Get out of your comfort zone,' I said, feeling wonderfully uncomfortable.
I'm a writer. I like to sit in a quiet corner and make stuff up. But I also want to have a successful career. When I get that niggling fear in the pit of my stomach I remind myself of this message: 'Your life shrinks or expands in relation to your courage.'
I want to thank Emma, and all the members of Progressive Women not only for inviting me to an inspiring event but for giving me the opportunity to tackle the old nerves once again.
That evening I was buzzing. Life seemed so full of possibilities. I wanted to do more workshops, more talks... and as if in answer to my wish, another door opened. That same night I found out I will be talking about Writing in the Digital Age at Stoke Newington Literary Festival on Sunday 9th June.
My policy is this: Say YES now, worry later.
I'll be running two social media workshop in July:
Blogging for Beginners and Improvers and Make it Happen with Twitter.
Check out my Workshop Page for more details.