This weekend I’ve done a lot of thinking about fear. C. Hope Clark spoke at Ozark Writers League in Branson, Missouri on Saturday. Hope opened her talk on The Shy Writer by asking us to write down our three biggest fears. I understand from Kim and Duke Pennell and Linda Apple and a host of other people I sat beside in that auditorium, that the rest of Hope’s talk was wonderful.
Personally, I have no idea. I spent the entire morning trying to come up with my three fears. I raised three boys as a single mother, remarried and followed my Vietnam vet husband, Jack, to Hawaii where I overcame my phobic fear of water, heights and tight spaces to become a scuba instructor with over 1500 dives. We pulled a 35’ trailer the entire length of Mexico. I’ve hiked all the hell over Nepal and Thailand and Vietnam with nothing but an ATM card around my neck like a gris gris bag and one change of clothes in a leather daypack. When the grayness closed around Jack’s head during one particular episode of his PTSD inspired combat anniversary dates, we attached two enormous dogs to our wrists and pepped thing up a bit by immigrating to Panama.
Seriously, what on earth would frighten me? What’s the worst that can happen? They’ll shave my head and send me to Afghanistan?
Yet, I do experience just a little of what is traditionally labeled fear when I speak in front of an audience. But, and here’s the point of this post, the one I always get to and usually bury at just about this point in the essay. In my case, and maybe for some of you too, what the world calls stage fright isn’t fear at all. It’s ego. My overinflated sense of self-importance. And the cure for ego is humor. Always.
Seriously, what IS the worst that can happen when I stand in front of an audience and share what I’ve learned about any given topic? Whether that subject is writing, or PTSD service dogs, or living and loving a combat veteran, or geriatric travel on the cheap? What’s the worst that can happen?
The very worst? Are you ready?
I’ll mess up and make a fool of myself. So what? HELLO, world’s biggest self-proclaimed fool right here, coming at you. Trip over my own big feet and fall, skirt over my head, flat on my face? Forget the topic completely and stand there staring at the audience, mouth hanging open, brain frozen into one giant Slurpee. If either of those things happened, I have no doubt it would be the only speech I’d ever give that people would actually remember the rest of their lives. And, oh by the way, I’d have the BEST material for a blog post, ever.
See, here’s the thing. In the big giant scheme of things, I’m not that damned important. When the worst that can happen is a bruised ego. Well, big freakin’ deal. If my ego is big enough to be bruised, it needs a little bump and nudge now and then.
So, here are my conclusions.
· If you ever get the chance to hear C. Hope Clark, avail yourself of the opportunity. I understand she’s terrific.
· If you’re ever sitting in one of my audiences, feel free to let your mind leap and skip and go where it will. The best speakers and writers in the world give you jumping-off points for your own creativity.
· To overcome any fear, surround yourself with a good support group, people who believe in you and find you fascinating; take tiny steps but keep moving forward; and, when all else fails, just suck it up and do it.
· And, if your fear is public speaking, ask yourself, be honest now, are you afraid, or are you puffed up with self-importance and just need a little giggle at your own expense to stand up there and share your hard-earned knowledge.
Now, tell the truth, how many of you are going to join me in Eureka Springs on October 5th when I teach my next writing workshop, not just because you want to know my method of creating Sense of Place, but because you’re secretly hoping I’ll fall on my face and you’ll get a picture of my granny panties to post on Facebook?