Imagining Underwear (and Other Myths About Stage Fright)

You’re probably reading my post right now with a small frown on your face, wondering what stage fright has to do with writing. The truth is that writers have to be much more public and active with their readers and customers today than they had to even twenty years ago. With the decline of publisher-paid book tours and expensive publicists and the rise of digital publishing making it easier to get your books out there, authors today have to take on the roles of media personalities if they ever hope to make a sale.

This can be outright terrifying for some. I know. Believe me, I know.

Creative people are very often an introverted or introspective species. We cherish our solitude, our “Me Time,” to create, to process, to dream, to invent, to solve, and to solidify the stories in our hearts and heads. We need that time to recharge and evaluate. It’s vital to our emotional and creative well-being.

Nevertheless, we have to learn to become public figures, even in the smallest of ways. To be successful as a writer, you need to put your work out there. You need to share. Authors give public readings or lectures. And as ever, putting your work out there means putting yourself out there. That thought can paralyze even the most talented individuals.

And that’s okay. It’s perfectly natural to be afraid to share something so deeply personal to you. It means opening yourself up to the world. You just can’t let the fear own you.

I know that’s a heap of clichés I’ve just thrown at you, but I want to see all of you shine as creative superstars. I don’t want stage fright, the fear of judgment, to stand in your way. I myself am terrified before every speaking engagement. My heart races every meeting. I’m only human. And despite my theatrical background, I am not fond of acting. It means being vulnerable. And vulnerability is something I fear. So I am really familiar with stage fright.

Here’s what I’ve done to fight it.

Recognize that stage fright doesn’t disappear just like that. It takes work. And even then, some of the most prolific presenters and performers still have stage fright. It’s something you work with and work through in order to get the job done.

Rehearse or prepare if you can. The more you practice, the better you’ll feel about the material. Before the meeting or presentation or reading, take time to yourself. Use your recharge time. Don’t reflect on what you’re about to do. Just relax. Once at the meeting, talk to the people around you. This way, they stop being strangers and reduce the feeling of performing in front of an anonymous mass. Stand up straight. Just put your shoulders back, lift your chin, keep your hands at your sides, and take a deep breath. You’ll feel better, trust me. Project your voice nice and loud on your greeting and smile. This will take the tension in your body and project it out of your body in the form of sound. Try it. It works. I do it every meeting. My hello is big and loud to diminish the tension, and I feel more relaxed. Then I can do my job properly.

And don’t imagine anyone in their underwear. I have never heard that work.

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