I remember it well. As far back as my memory goes, I was a bit precocious. Seeking attention from those in authority and admiration from my peers, my hand shot up to be picked for reading assignments, chalkboard writing, and the coveted spoken parts in class presentations. I was quick with a flair for the dramatic.
And then it happened. A well known poem. An easy presentation. An entire school. I got the first line out. And then my brain stopped. All my friends, my enemies, teachers, and strangers staring up at me as I desperately searched my mind for the next line. After an interminable amount of time, a teacher slipped me a notecard with the poem on it…and as I bent to pick up the proffered life ring I knocked over the microphone stand…and my performing days were over.
For the next semester, kids in groups of twos and threes would join up chanting the poem at me in the lunch room and on the playground. Even after I brought back a trophy for the school as an orator, the teasing was brutal.
Over fifty years later, I still experience moments of anxiety and even terror when speaking to someone I don’t know or facing something I’ve never faced. And now, my life most certainly half over, it is the thought of my very mortality that awakens me in the night, or stops me in the middle of my day causing my heart to race and my hands to sweat. It is a sinister and ever-present companion.
Dear one, none of us is exempt from moments of fear and anxiety, and perhaps a bit of adrenalin now and then can serve well to let us know we are still alive. But if that feeling crawls its way up your spine and down to your hands, effectively paralyzing you every time you attempt to write sentence, know this: you are good enough.
Even if you fail. Even if you forget the words for a moment. Even if others speak harshly the voices of those who would say cruel things to you in your moment of embarrassment, those people do not matter. Don’t place your own worth in their hands. You are good enough.
You see, as a creative soul, and even more as a human, we are not perfect nor are we really expected to be. It’s okay if the rhyme is stilted or the picture off center. It is so much more important that you took the step to follow the call in your heart, the whispering dream at your core and create something. When you take your eyes off others and listen to your own heart—this is when you will again experience joy in your gift.
Should you eventually seek an audience again, then of course preparedness can prevent a lot of embarrassment, but it’s no guarantee that as you put your art out there it will be accepted and understood. If you’re focused on fame and fortune, you’re focused on the wrong thing anyway.
Your art is an extension of you, and just like you pick yourself up after physically tripping, brush yourself off and keep moving forward, when your creation doesn’t meet the expectations of others, remember that the expectations of others are theirs. Your art is you.
Allow yourself to take a chance on yourself and as you continue to create, the anxiety will abate. If you give in and let fear paralyze you it will only bring a legacy of regret. And regret is a soul crusher.
So pick up that pen again and write. Even if your hands shake, put one word down and then another and another until the page is full. Keep writing until your heart smiles. I promise you, you will not regret it.
Tammy Boehm, Associate Editor