The Speaking Zone

I had an anxiety dream last night about the Hackney performance I am participating in next week.

The usual thing; lost and disorientated at night in a monolithic graveyard; my clothes falling apart; a serial killer on the lurk; my make-up either lost or not able to fill its necessary function; and of course, arriving late for the actual event.

I’ve been speaking at public gatherings for some years now, and never felt completely comfortable about it, despite having spent years when I was younger, doing speech and drama training as a way of conquering an inherent shyness.

I give a presentation and invariably enter a zone of assumed confidence (despite clutching a transcript of my words as back up in case of middle aged memory loss or the losing of my thread of thought which has been known to happen…in one instance due to a particularly aggressive interruption and questioning by an audience member who challenged my theory on heightened aggression in seagulls, due to over ingestion of steroid packed  fast foods).

Afterwards I have no idea how successful the talk was, although usually I gather the reaction from the level of engagement and questions afterwards or the look on the faces of the audience, which has been known to be blank, stunned and somewhat disturbed.

Why do I do it?

Ostensibly it is a ‘needs must’ situation. My writing and art make me happy, keep me sane and basically are intrinsic to my well being. In order to have any hope at making the arts a paying career, even at the lowest level, I need to get out there and speak about and promote my work.

It is also a way of interacting with people and inspiring and challenging myself with new ideas and perspectives. In my experience, stagnation and depression are one and the same, and pushing my limits and boundaries creates a movement that nullifies feelings of being stuck.

I live for the excitements, the buzz that a new plan, project or idea brings.

In my younger days, excitements were generally generated around drugs, sex and parties.

Later in life I went through a brief stage of doing adventure sports which was disastrous and short lived as all training would be forgotten in the final push through the fear barrier as I would for example, belly flop out of a plane and neglect to open my parachute on time.

I wouldn’t say I have evolved, just modified my life choices to make them a little more…safe…and life affirming.

So in the name of the excitement, the progression, I have given my fears new fodder to ruminate on. Performance, an area that is strange, frightening and unknown but gods, it’s interesting and exciting!

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About charlottejane2002

Author of 'P is for Prostitution', 'The Bloody Sacrifice' and co-editor of 'A Contemporary Western Book of the Dead' which are all published by Mandrake of Oxford. Italian publisher Roberto Migliussi has recently released 'The Sky is a Gateway, Not a Ceiling', a book of Charlotte's collected essays printed alongside images of his own art work. Charlotte is also an artist who creates spiritually directed art works from road kill and found objects. She has had her written work printed in anthologies and various magazines and on line publications and has given presentations at many events and institutions including Edinburgh University and Brooklyn's 'Museum of Morbid Anatomy'. Her art work has been exhibited widely including at London's Chelsea Gallery and The Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institute, and is soon to be shown in New York.
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3 Responses to The Speaking Zone

  1. I started having panic attacks about ten years ago, maybe more. I went straight into denial. I would arrive at clients offices to present to maybe anything from 2 to 20 people sweating profusely. I would lie when asked why I was perspiring like a race horse by telling them I was late and so had ran. Crap. To this day I find great discomfort in crowds of people and still am nervous when speaking to groups. I so wish I had your resolve. I bottled out recently from a book reading, one which may have led to an opportunity to be published. I shall endeavour to take a leaf out of your book.

  2. I remember well the anxiety sweats Russell, and also the awful day someone told me that I smelled, as panic sweats have a specific and strong stench.
    I use every available prop and technique in order to help me speak publically. I also watch people who appear confident in public and the way they ‘step’ into a performers persona, something which I study and admire but haven’t found to work for me.
    All we can do is Russell is go for our dreams; as a good friend said,’ better to regret what we have done than what we haven’t done’ (as it writers it also serves as inspiration for a variety of cautionary tales too!)
    Go for it…always!

  3. D says:

    Public speaking is my achilles, my demon, something i’ve negotiated with for years through an internal histrionic terror & about 15mg of diazepam when forced to perform in front of large academic audiences. Choosing PG-research (like i’ve done) is to throw yourself against these shadows and even if i have to humiliate myself over a number of occasions, i will do it “straight” eventually & successfully.

    The fact that you stand up in front of attentive audiences, “owning” your subject (sorry, yoof speak), illustrates that your actions and not just your words are a beacon of hope. I am writing this because i live with ptsd and public speaking focuses certain trigger points to their strongest peaks more than at any other time in life. Living the fear and crossing that threshold though,,,,,,, makes you glad to be alive.

    Thank-you for your inspiring writing AND for your inspiring acts rendered with such refreshing honesty in this all too synthetic world. Perdurabo indeed!

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