Aren’t we, like, magical creatures? From the moment I was born until this very day, I am able to bruja myself into a world of my own imagining. I can enter into an tunnel of my own making, and be entirely content with my own thoughts, my escapes, and my solo adventures.
I am, in short, rather great at being alone.
And I have always been great at being alone.
Which isn’t to say that I ought to be alone always.
Especially when I have a reading or two or three coming up and I enter into my secret, internal garden of thoughts and fantasies. I am riddled with worry and anxiety and fear that oh shit, I am so not good enough to read my work out loud, to an audience, to a roomful of people I don’t know. I feel entirely ego-centric, and I remember what my mama told me the day I gave up dance for soccer. She said I told her, “I’m tired of everyone looking at me.”
And I wonder, was I? Did I much enjoy the pressure of taking the checkered ball down the field while everyone watched me make or miss the net? Did I like that more than stage work and dance?
Perhaps I was just tired of feeling uncomfortable in my artist’s way, even as a young girl. In the suburbs of LA, adolescence meant AYSO soccer, not Polynesian dancing.Adolescence meant do what the others are doing, not finding your voice.
So I thought I’d write a quick post about my performance anxiety this week. How the voice in my head is both ecstatic for the magnetic pull and rush of the stage and audience, and also so desperately desirous for a moment of nothingness – to go into the dark, quiet, hiding place of my solo cocoon. The hedge I used to live inside when I’d run away from home.
Tips When You’re Nervous about Performing:
1. Reach Out to Friends: Yes, I love my Facebook groups. I love that I can express a thought or feeling and in the space of an hour, ten lovely humans will reach back out to support me. I love that I can post to my Artist’s Way group that I’m feeling fear & anxiety for my reading, and ask that folks send just a little extra love my way this week, and they will! I love that we can create space to support one another in our creative recovery. And, it takes something. It takes something to reach out for that support. Honor yourself, and do it. It’s liberating.
2. Ask for Help: A mama I know wrote this on a Post-It after she became a mama: “it’s okay to ask for help.” Do this when you’re feeling creatively nervous or shy. Ask a friend or two or three if maybe they’ll have a date with you to practice your work – even over the phone or on Skype. I once read my entire 15 minute set, a couple times, to my mentor over the phone. She offered feedback, but it’s enough just to have someone listen. Let your friends help you, they want to.
3. Practice Radical Self-Love: Give yourself a facial. Schedule that haircut you’ve put off for five months. Eat what you want to that week. Drink some green juice to get some nutrients. Have an orgasm. Do all of this. Everything you need to make yourself feel good.
4. Visit the Space You’re Going to Perform In: I have yet to do this. But I notice that when I’m feeling anxious about reading my poetry, much of this anxiety comes from not knowing what the reading room looks like. I imagine flourescently-lit cafeterias. I imagine huge, bellowing theaters with hundreds of folks in the audience. I imagine every space I’ve ever performed in. Fear comes from the unknown. So take out the variables, visit your space, know it, so you don’t have to fear it anymore. (Note to self: take my own advice ASAP).
5. Know Your Poems: Not back and forth, but know the poems you are going to read. Get your set list together, choose a few poems you’ve never read before, and be complete with the set. That way, you can focus on breathing the words in, and being familiar with them.
6. Your Poetry is Perfect Already: remember, they don’t have to be your best poems, your perfect poems, your new poems, your old poems. They don’t have to be any particular anything. Your poetry is your word. It is your living word, your magic, your craft. You are a magical creature, and everything you create is amazing. Be with your magic. Recognize the power of your wand/pen, your imagination, and let the spirit of what you’ve written fly.
7. Accept Yourself: Accept your nerves, your anxiety, your fear, your shyness. Accept and acknowledge all of it. Notice that soon after you’ve spoken all your fears out loud, they begin to dissolve. Notice that inside of a week of practicing. What you resist persists, so don’t resist any of it. Just say “hello, fear, i see you and i acknowledge you.” Tell your friends about it, and let the universe send you the love it wants you to feel. And remember, don’t compare yourself to any other poets and how they sound or what they say. Yes, be inspired by them. But be you. There is just one of you. You are the only one who holds your particular magic and medicine for the world.