Friday, February 22, 2019

What To Do When Stage Fright Strikes

Melinda Palacio

I understand your stage fright, but not my own. This newfound rack of nerves is something I am owning up to in order to squash my fear. As a writer, reading my work in publish has always been a breeze. I write the stuff and reading it aloud to others is fairly easy, even when my middle-aged eyes fail me and I have trouble seeing the words when there is little light. I have a good idea of what the text should say and therefore can usually fill in if necessary. However, recently, I’ve dipped my toes into waters deeper than my comfort zone. I’ve started singing and playing the guitar, something I didn’t think I could ever do, let alone perform in public. I’ve blogged about my journey in learning the guitar and writing songs. The first song I wrote was an accompaniment to my poetry book, Bird Forgiveness. You can hear it on you tube. Although I said I would put up new songs on my channel, I have yet to do it. Part of it has to do with this shy stage fright business I need to nip. 
While I don’t get nervous speaking in public, singing in public sets on a whole set of nervous reactions. First, my voice becomes very thin and barely audible. I have difficulty summoning the outdoor voice I am sometimes famous for. Stage fright takes over and I start to make mistakes in my guitar playing, knowing I’m making mistakes me me even more frightened and nervous.

Although songwriting and poetry have something in common, ask Bob Dylan, performing those songs is not as easy as reading my own poetry. Two weeks ago, at the Core Winery in Orcutt, I decided to take a leap of faith and perform the Bird Forgiveness theme song. As a featured reader, along with Toni Wynn, I figured I would take advantage of the extra time I had and work in a song into my presentation. The Core Winery is an intimate  and relaxed tasting room and the proprietors, Becky and Dave Corey treat everyone like family. The tasting room serves as Orcutt’s community center and hosts all kinds of events in addition to poetry and music (they’ve even held discussions with a doula (a person that assists with the final hours of life). I knew that the comfortable space of the winery was where I wanted to debut the Bird Forgiveness song in public. 

At least I’ve learned some tricks over the years that have helped me become a better speaker, and hopefully, a better singer and guitarist. I can share three helpful tips with you. The first is something Becky Corey pointed: no one but you knows you’ve goofed. After performing my song and replaying all the mistakes I made, I mentioned the fact that I had made mistakes and she said that no one but me knew that I had made a mistake. This is something that’s important. When you are reading prose or poetry, if you stumble on a word or a line, it’s acceptable, and sometimes helpful, to repeat the line so the overall meaning will not be lost. This repetition is not necessary in a song. And never start all over, unless you are Patti Smith. Number two is volume. Saying it loud, singing it loud, can trick you and the audience into thinking you have all the confidence in the world. My last tip is to over prepare. Even if you are reading just one poem or singing one song, knowing the material backwards and forwards will help you make an adjustment, should you stumble or miss a beat. 

Article in the Santa Maria Sun on the Core Poetry Series

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