June 16, 2011

Stage Fright

Today, I'd like to thank Brooke Rousseau (please visit her awesome blog!) for bestowing the Irresistibly Sweet Award upon me!
Thank you, Brooke!  I'm honored.

I don't know if I'm sweet, but the fact that Brooke gave me the award certainly proves that she is :)

I'm not very good at these blog awards.  They all have rules you're supposed to follow, and then you're supposed to pass them on, and I can never choose who to pass them to because I don't want to leave anyone important out or make anyone feel unchosen... and honestly, I'm not sure what the rules are for this one.  Usually they include a "something you didn't know about me" or "random facts" requirement, so hmm... what can I tell you?

How about this:  (as always, I have a point... eventually :))

I started taking piano lessons when I was 4.  My music teacher didn't usually take kids younger than 5, but my hands were strong and my ear for music attuned so she made an exception.

I loved playing the piano.  I loved that you could sit before it and coax forth beautiful melodies to suit any mood you were in.  I loved the way music made me feel... (and that, if I was practicing, I got first dibs on the living room and my siblings had to wait to watch TV - ah, the power :))

My music teacher had high standards to which I did not always measure up.  Her emphasis was on performance, and when I reached high school she lobbied strongly for me to go to Julliard.

But therein lay the rub.  I loved to play the piano, but by myself.  I HATED performing.  I didn't even like practicing when family members were in the same room.

But because I attended a serious piano school, I had to perform, twice a year, and I absolutely dreaded those concerts.

I had to walk to the front of the auditorium.  Alone.  In front of all those people.

Raise or lower the piano stool to the appropriate height.  Check.  Adjust.

Then stand before the expectant audience and say the name of my piece and its composer in a clear voice, loud enough to be heard.

Then sit at the piano, place my fingers lightly on the keys, take a deep breath, and begin.

Sounds simple, right?

But my legs wobbled, threatening to drop me on my royal highness.  My voice stuck in my throat.  My hands trembled and my fingers turned to ice, and if you've ever tried to play Beethoven or Chopin with frozen fingers, you know they lose all dexterity and it's VERY difficult.  But the worst problem was that, at the moment I was supposed to begin, my mind went completely blank.  I couldn't remember where or how to start.  My heart slammed.  My mind careened crazily.  I was horribly conscious of all those people looking at me, waiting, and with every rapid breath that passed through my dry lips, the notes I needed spun farther away.

I'm having a panic attack just thinking about it!

More than once, humiliation of humiliations, my music teacher had to step forward and place my fingers over the opening keys.

By the time I was 10, I had learned to write the first chord on the back of my left hand.  Then, when my mind deserted me and I couldn't think where to begin, I could glance down and see C dominant 7th or whatever, and it was enough to get me going.

Once I got started, muscle memory usually carried the day.

But there you have it.

(Are you ready for the point I promised?)

Any wonder that I have the same problem speaking in public? :)

I know some writers are very outgoing and love to get up in front of an audience.  I am not one of them.  (Bear in mind, I am not referring to school visits here.  Although I did have to get over my initial fear, I now love visiting with kids.  It's running workshops and giving speeches that I haven't conquered... yet!)

Have any of you ever had stage fright or been paralyzingly afraid to do something?  If you're a writer, do you like speaking in public?  What scares the bejeesus out of you (writing-related or otherwise)?  Please share :)

P.S.  As for passing on the award, I really can't choose.  I am so grateful to all my fellow bloggers who take the time to visit and comment and show their support.  All of you are truly awesome... and sweet :)  So don't try to make me choose! :)


  1. Well, you may be afraid to speak in public, but when we were on that panel together, you were terrific! But I can relate to your fear, as I was the same way. I used to be terrified of public speaking, but over time it became easier. We usually speak to kids or early educators and they are a warm, fun and receptive crowd.

  2. Yes, Iza, I agree - the kids and their teachers are a lovely group. It's when it's only grown-ups I lose my nerve :)

  3. Congratulations on your award.

    Since I teach, I am okay with speaking in non-teaching situations. But for my dad's surprise birthday party 2 years ago, I wanted to say some emotional things. Problem was I became too emotional and bumbled the whole thing. Problem was I wasn't sure I was going to make the speech so I hadn't practiced. When I went to speak, the emotions and panic won out.

  4. Congrats on your award! I agree, I played piano too and the worst parts were the recitals! I still don't like talking in front of crowds.

  5. Congrats on the award, I feel the same as you about them :) I used to play the organ but only liked playing my favourite pieces. I hate public things too, although I used to do the readings all the time in church and when Miss HJ is older I hope to resume that to get some confidence with public speaking. I agree that it is fun to be around kids so schools would be the easiest part.

  6. You absolutely deserve the award! I can relate to all that not wanting to follow the rules. That's why I didn't. I can also relate to the fear of speaking in public. It does get better with practice, but when I get out of practice, the fear returns.

    My son and I have been reading Can't Sleep Without Sheep. It is so adorable, so original, and so much fun!

  7. Congrats on the award. I've got a very recent example of something I found intimidating. For the next four weeks, I'm acting as Communication Manager for my department. Today was day one of our monthly Management Team meeting - my first, of course. Part of my job at these meetings is to note down the key messages from the meeting. So I'm sitting there, youngest by easily ten years, desperately trying to identify key messages from conversations that were partly gobbledegook to me.

    When it finally got to the end of the day and I went to report on what I thought were the day's key messages, I was told that doesn't happen until the end of tomorrow (despite the fact it was on today's agenda). So the nervousness shall continue tomorrow. Groan!

    Oh well, at least it's a good learning experience! :-)

  8. Theresa - thanks and you're right! Emotion makes speaking very difficult!

    Lydia - Thanks! Do you still play?

    Catherine - thanks, and know that you would certainly have been a recipient had I had the wherewithal to pass the award on :)

    Brooke - thank you, and I'm SO glad you and your son have been enjoying Can't Sleep! I love the art - I think Mike did such a fantastic job! Which animal is your son's favorite?

    Cally - thanks, and best of luck with your report today! You can do it and you'll be great!!

  9. Oh yes...that wonderful thing called Public Speaking. I tried everything to get out of that class in college. UG! Waited until the last semester to take it. This is simply an area I have always struggled in. I even joined Toastmasters and I still became incredibly nervous every time I had to speak but I did notice the nervousness would leave me much faster every time I spoke. Maybe one day Ill conquer it. :)

  10. I've never taken a course - maybe that would help! You sound like you're way ahead of me!


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