The first nine months of this year were hectic and now I’m drifting uncomfortably around the spaces in-between.
I’ve initiated some major changes in my life and as I wait for the results of my explorations into new directions, I’m feeling slightly lost, powerless and extremely discombobulated.
Many years ago I had a partner who said my problem, and the problem of most of the human race, is the perpetual need to strive. I can see where he was coming from, but fighting to move forward can sometimes be a necessary good.
I look back on how fear ridden and neurosis driven I was for many, many years and my struggle to constantly push onwards has helped shape a person that is genuine, confident and mostly at ease with herself.
Even in the last decade I have changed dramatically and I feel that I have grown into the woman that I was meant to be, rather than someone shaped by pain and trauma who didn’t realise that she had a choice in the way her life was lived.
Recently someone was saying to me how self assured I appear to be and I wanted to use this blog to talk about how an aspect of my art helped develop this trait.
15 or so years ago I was asked to give a talk on my creative process and research that was focused on blood use in contemporary spiritual practice.
I gave it a go, as I always do, and the process pushed me to organise my thoughts into a structure that laid the groundwork for a book I later wrote on the subject.
I had studied public speaking when I was very young, initially to correct a slight speech impediment and as an attempt to correct chronic shyness. I continued speech classes in my teens because I enjoyed and was good at them (also it gave me an excuse to avoid P.E classes which I hated) and I had vague thoughts of becoming a barrister when I left school and believed that public speaking skills would be an asset in that career.
Well being a lawyer didn’t come to pass, and speaking about contemporary blood practices in front of a large audience who had access to a bar was very different from inter- collegiate debating, but I gave that first presentation and it went over well enough for me to be asked to speak again on many occasions.
My approach to these presentations has remained relatively consistent.
I initially write my talk out in an essay format,and as I practice through reading and recitation, I modify it.
I’ve learned techniques to create a bond with the audience and also to cover any stutters, mistakes or stallings that I may have. I have also trained myself to be self sufficient and very organised in case of any problems (which there generally are) with tech set up.
I studied how performers often step into a persona when they walk onto a stage, and I chose to do the same with an alter ego that was a strong, eloquent and confident version of myself.
As I continued to speak at conferences and events I gradually integrated this superior me until it was no longer just an alternate or occasionally projected personality.
Over time my talks improved and on occasion I would ‘nail it’ to the point they were effortless, fluid and natural. However I always used the written talk as an outline that on a good day, I could comfortable deviate from and I continued to remain emotionally reliant on my notes.
On occasion I might shake things up a bit and work with a musician, band, or different visual stimulus as I believe if I aren’t passionate about what I present to an audience, no matter how good an actress I may be, that ennui would seep through and negatively colour the result.
Also, every time I do something differently, I learn.
A while ago I spoke at a conference and was very unhappy with how it went. I was tired after travelling continuously for several days,I hadn’t done the necessary research into the audience and how to approach them, and the tech went tits up.
Rather than castigating myself (well not too much) for making a mess of it, I decided to do my next talk differently.
With the following event I had no written presentation or notes and no backdrop of images. There were no distractions or shift of focus away from me talking about a subject I knew well…my experiences and development as an artist.
I spoke easily for an hour and it went incredibly well.
Whilst I wouldn’t do this regularly as I prefer to create a written transcript for whatever it is I’m speaking about, especially as it is often published later, I gained a shot of confidence from approaching things from a new angle and knowing it could work.
So that is a synopsis of how I acted ‘as if’ in the name of my art, and eventually started to became the person I was meant to be.