Mice, rats, spiders, enclosed spaces and clowns are all things that people fear LESS than public speaking. I’d take my chances with a 60-second pitch at a networking meeting over being locked in a cupboard with a clown and I’ve been to some strange meetings… Public speaking is a common fear encountered in the workplace – people can feel very vulnerable and uncomfortable. Thankfully, organisations are increasingly supportive and provide training and support for their teams. As a well-understood fear, colleagues are generally sympathetic to glossophobia.
What I have begun to observe amongst my peers is a growing incidence of scriptophobia, the fear of writing in public. As a social anxiety, this fear is rooted in worries about being wrong, looking silly or being negatively evaluated. While most people may not describe themselves as having a writing phobia, many will admit not enjoying it. Presenting information coherently in writing is a skill that often we do not need to practice once we have left school. Especially now that communication is often in text messages, email or social media. Long-form content, such as letters or reports, are rarer. Nevertheless, there are times when public writing is necessary, and it can cause stress and worry.
If you run a business, you will need to put your thoughts into writing. Tenders, case studies, award nominations, website copy, blogs, marketing materials and press releases are all forms of content that can help you grow your audience and increase sales. If you are running a small business you are likely to be trading services or products based on your skills, and these probably don’t involve writing.
This Saturday was Small Business Saturday in the UK. This annual non-commercial campaign does good work highlighting the contribution small businesses make to the economy and the character of our town centres. Held on the first Saturday of December, it’s also a key day in the retail calendar. The day many people flock to the shops to do Christmas shopping after the all-important November payday.
This time last year, I was running a small business, Time Lifestyle Boutique. It was a gift shop in Dundee city centre, on the street that connects the civic centre of the City Square to McManus, the city’s current star museum ahead of V&A Dundee opening in 2018. I closed the business for good in March this year after a whirlwind adventure where I chased my dream, achieved what I always wanted to do and learned very valuable and hard lessons. Ultimately the business was not to be sustainable one but it was the start of a new chapter for me where I faced fears and made things happen in life. It’s in this spirit I have continued on my journey.
The reason I bring up Time this week is because I thought about the shop more this weekend than I had for the last few months. Small Business Saturday was the day we would take the most money each year. I did a lot of promotion of the event and wrote and spoke a lot about how important it was. In 2014, I also coordinated a campaign for other city centre businesses to get involved with. We offered discounts and shared information about the other participating businesses in the spirit of collaboration, rather than competition. I hope that this awareness campaign has at least resonated with a few people who include small businesses in their buying habits to this day. It might just save other small businesses from the same fate as my own.
I attended a debate on Thursday night hosted by Creative Dundee and the Architecture Fringe. It was held at Dundee Contemporary Arts and was well-attended by architects, students and ‘creatives’. Four panel members were asked to debate the following question, ‘Is Dundee losing itself in the search for glamour?’. The motion fell. Being a Turncoats event, the panel members had to swap sides half way through the debate and I could sense at least two members of the panel were squeamish in the counter-argument. The event had a social media blackout so panel members could be frank, and I think that made things more interesting. Panel members featured two architects, a curator and an arts collective founder.
I think it’s an excellent question and it’s one that we all have to think about. It’s something I have been thinking about a lot in the last four years in particular while we have been seeing monumental changes in the Waterfront area of the City Centre. The city’s skyline has drastically changed and the investment is in the towering realm of billions. I believe the scale of this change and investment will not be seen again for a generation and the direction of the city and the lives of its residents will be steered by today’s developments for decades.
In the 17(!) years I have been working I have had many, many jobs. For the purposes of this post, I will list them.
- Avon lady
- Weavers Café Saturday girl
- Debenhams Sales Advisor
- Debenhams Supervisor
- WH Smith Sales Assistant
- Libra/ Jenners Sales Assistant
- Waitrose shelf stacker
- University of Dundee jobs
- IT Receptionist
- IT Clerical Assistant
- IT Communication and Information Assistant
- Innovation Portal Marketing Assistant
- Dundee Clinical Academic Track Administrative Co-ordinator
- IT Communication & Information Officer
- Time Lifestyle Boutique Founder & Director
- Discovery Credit Union Marketing & Communication Officer
- The Circle Facilities & Services Development Manager
Alongside the first half of this list, I accumulated qualifications: Standard Grades, Highers, Advanced Highers and an Honours Degree in Biological Sciences.
Let me start with the conclusion, that each of those experiences has shaped who I am today. I have experience, skills and knowledge that I use every day that I started accumulating a very long time ago.
The last six weeks have been absolutely crazy. I have gone from shop owner and company director to unemployed lecture-crasher. I have gone through disappointment, despair and desperation. A closing down sale, seeing stock and fixtures packed up for auction and the realisation that I wouldn’t be doing what I loved anymore. The numbers just weren’t working and it was time to pull the plug. Reluctantly and regrettably.
Now that the worst of it is over I am now feeling relief and am ready to embark on yet another chapter. With no regrets and a whole load of life experience that you can read in the fine lines accessorising the skin around my eyes, I am thinking about my next transformation.