Bring It On!

Many people, including my students, don’t know that I was heavy into music for a large part of my life. In high school I was in the elite singing group for my school and did my first solo at the last program of my senior year. In college I began writing music and performing with a gospel folk group that I put together. We even made a record–well, sort of. It was a tape of one of our performances. For the 15 years after college, I continued to perform in and out of church. When I got to Texas, however, circumstances called for me to give up performances.

One of the things that always seemed to happen when I did a performance was what most people know as Performance Anxiety. I would get a fluttery heart, clammy hands and shake a little bit. But I learned that as soon as I got up front and opened up, things would get better. The same thing happened when I gave a speech or preached a sermon. Performance Anxiety. But the solution was simple: open your mouth and begin singing or talking. Problem solved.

We are less than two weeks away from school starting, and after 16 years of being a professor, I will have to admit that I have my usual Performance Anxiety. I am checking and double checking my syllabi, going over the plans for each class and getting as ready as I can be. Tomorrow begin the pre-class meetings, which will last until the very day we open the classrooms. And I find myself thinking: let’s just get it over with! Let me in the classroom!

But you don’t want to hear about me singing, or in the classroom. Most of what I write about here has to do with writing. Trouble is, writing is indeed performance. So much so that many of us put off writing because we think our performance will never live up to our lofty aspirations.

Well, I have news for you. You’re absolutely right. What you–or I–write will never meet the aspirations that we have in our heads. It can be very intimidating. But on the flip side of that, if we never write it, it will never exist. Think about that. You have a brilliant (or not so) storyline, a character you want to develop, or a premise you want to pursue. You can write it to the best of your ability, and see how it turns out–almost always less that perfect. Or you can put off writing it until your ability is sufficient to match the perfect idea you have. And most likely, it will never get written.

It’s OK to make mistakes. Because the alternative is never doing anything, never creating anything, never being able to say, Hey, I wrote that (warts and all). I guess I really am a writer.

Performance anxiety usually only lasts until you open your mouth or start put words on paper. In that case, the best thing to say is: