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Sorry I'm Late, I Didn't Want to Come

by Jessica Pan

About the Book

Jessica Pan is a proud introvert with a big problem. Living in foreign cities away from friends and family, loneliness is affecting her health enough that something must be done to get her out of the house and reconnect with the world. What she decides to try is the one thing she had spent her life avoiding: extroversion.

Sorry I’m Late, I Didn’t Want To Come is the story of Pan’s year-long adventure tackling some of her biggest fears in the hopes of overcoming shyness, making friends, and finding the confidence to try new things. Each chapter brings a fresh challenge from the mundane (talk to strangers!) to the wince-inducing (perform stand-up comedy?!). Along the way, she enlists extroverts to share insights that anyone can use: how to cope with stage fright, boost one’s charisma, or even start a conversation.

A funny and engaging read about the search for connection that’s perfect for introverts and extroverts alike!

About the Author

Jessica Pan is an American writer that started her career in Beijing publishing and television before relocating to London as a freelance journalist. Her work has appeared in Vice, The Cut, Refinery29, Jezebel, and Guardian Weekend.Sorry I’m Late, I Didn’t Want To Come is her second book.

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Q&A with Jessica Pan

What are some books or resources that were helpful for you in writing your books?

I really love Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert because it’s’ so inspiring. It emphasizes the message that we can be creative and we don’t have to be perfect and that being creative in itself is a reward.

 I also LOVE Anne Lamott’s book, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. It’s really funny and also very reassuring.

I also recently read Jerry Saltz’s book How to Be An Artist which was really great for whatever kind of creativity you want to pursue. (It’s also a great gift book!)

Do you have any habits or creativity hacks that help you deal with writers' block?

I think I have to tell myself that it’s okay to write a few bad pages. You have to get over the fear and just accept that there will be many drafts and to be brave enough to be willing to write some bad pages to get to the good stuff.

I also like to turn off the internet, hide my phone and set a timer. For that time, I must sit at my laptop with a Word document open. I’ll eventually get so bored that I will start writing just to have something to do.

Also, keeping a written journal is also great. If I’m feeling insecure about a project or life itself, hand-writing down these fears and what I hope to achieve really helps a lot. I love writing in tthe big black Moleskine journals – the unlined ones because sometimes you want the freedom to draw or doodle as well.

What’s the best book you’ve read during 2020?

The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo. I read it during the start of the lockdown in London and it was a nice, chunky read about a family of four sisters and their parents (which I am always a sucker for! Must be because I grew up reading Little Women by Louisa May Alcott).

Do you have any readgrets (definition as a noun-that empty feeling you get when you read a book way too fast and wish you would have read it much slower; as a verb-to feel sad or sorry it took you so long to read a book you should have read a long time ago)?

Oh, interesting question!! I probably race through David Sedaris’s essays too quickly, as well as Samantha Irby’s essays. Also I’m extremely bad when reading thrillers – I tend to race through them or even flip towards the end, which is very very bad of me. I think I read Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn at an incredibly rapid pace. I’m a big fan of re-reading my favorite books, so you can go back and appreciate the words and the atmosphere without wondering about the plot.

What changes do you think will stick around after the pandemic? ie, no more shaking hands, more people working from home, no more birthday candles, etc.

I think about this all the time! I do think the tradition of shaking hands is probably dead and buried. It makes me really sad to think about all we’ve lost – I used to hate riding on a busy subway, but before the pandemic, the only reason I didn’t like it was because it was annoying. If someone coughed, I’d be annoyed that I might catch their cold – I never, ever felt frightened the way I do now.

I had NOT thought of the birthday candles thing – that’s so interesting! I think there will be soooo many huge changes and this question is actually making my brain hurt.

I’d love to know what will return to normal. That’s what I’m waiting for. Will I be able to go to the movies safely? Eat in restaurant? Meet strangers and not fear the virus?

I'm sure there was, but was there a specific situation you found yourself in where you just stopped and thought, "What the heck am I doing right now??? Why am I doing this???"

I DEFINITELY had this feeling a lot, but mostly right before my comedy performances, when the MC is about to introduce me. I almost blacked out because it was so INSANE to be about to perform stand-up comedy to an audience of strangers.

I also thought that before approaching strangers on the tube to ask them the Queen question. Actually, in retrospect, I probably felt this way more often than not during the year. Alternative title for book should be: WHAT THE HECK AM I DOING: Why Am I Doing This???

With all these situations, is there a memory of this year that sticks with you the most? Good? Bad?

I think the very first comedy gig I did sticks out in my mind as a defining memory. So does seeing that stag at dawn in the middle of the forest after the night of doing shrooms. That image is seared into my brain!

One of the best feeling was walking off the stage after performing at The Moth. I had been petrified and I remember standing on stage and hearing the audience’s laughter and how they would pause, waiting for me to continue my story. It was such a powerful experience.

What are the three biggest pieces of advice you would give to a fellow introvert?

It’s healthy to know you’re an introvert and lead your life playing to your strengths, but don’t let being an introvert become a label that you use to say no to things you don’t want to do –actually consider if you are avoiding something because you are scared of it or it gives you anxiety but might be very good for you in the long run.

Extroverts can make amazing friends. I tend to gravitate towards other introverts because I’m so comfortable with them, but extroverted friends are so wonderful – they introduce you to more people, they are open to things, they have a totally different world view, they expand your world view.

If you want a bigger life, (and some don’t! which is fine, of course), don’t let your anxieties or preferences hold you back.

What is your writing routine? Is there anything that helps you find your flow when writing?

I’m a bad procrastinator so I actually if I want to be serious about writing, I make my husband change my social media passwords and forbid him from telling them to me, so that means I can’t be on social media at all. This is VERY effective in getting work done. I also try to turn off the internet and set a timer for anywhere from 45 minutes to 4 hours where I tell myself I need to write or do nothing but stare at blank page. (I do allow bathroom breaks!!)

As for flow, I love sitting down to write by hand in a journal – knowing it can be anything, stream of consciousness, or even writing about my fears of my writing – these are known as “morning pages” in the book The Artist’s Way (which I also recommend!) and it really helps you get over the fear of doing the writing and get you excited about it.