I have writer’s block. I really want to write a blog. I enjoy writing. I have lots of ideas swirling in my mind. I can’t get traction with any of them. So I am going to write about my block and just see what comes up. Maybe some thought will emerge and unblock me as long as I don’t stay silent or get worried and anxious. Just write.
I am just feeling uninspired. The juices are not flowing. My mind is not really quiet – in fact, quite the opposite. My brain is working overtime. Maybe that’s part of the problem. Just let it happen.
Now I started thinking about last week in New York at the Meetings of the American Psychoanalytic Association. Some random thoughts are emerging. I tell myself, “keep going”. Just write. I gave a presentation titled “Stage Fright: Shame on You!” at the Meetings. The topic generated a lively discussion.
Stage fright freaks out so many people besides musicians. That was clear from people who came to the program. Participants talked about speakers, athletes, students, teachers, analysts, CEOs, doctors, writers and non-professional social situations for others who suffered from performance fears. How you think and feel about yourself is a key ingredient…your self-esteem. It’s important to feel in control of yourself and also have an impact on others.
Ideally when you cry as an infant, your needs will be gratified. The roots of gratification are planted in the nursery – your first review was received there. Experiencing stage fright feels shameful. Humiliating. Like you are a fake. Everyone sees how inept you (you think you) are. No one will respond to you. You will be rejected, booed, and laughed at by the audience who, by extension, represents your parents.
Sometimes people harbor magic feelings that a perfect performance (what is that?) will bring perfect love (what is that?). Shame is the performer’s purgatory. Shame on you!
My brain is thawing. I am beginning to feel less blocked.
Now I am thinking of the black cat that comes to our house daily ever since last fall. We don’t know if this cat is a he or a she. So my husband, Louie, calls the cat “he”. I call the cat “she”. Sometimes I call her a “he” too. We have officially named her Etude. The composer, Chopin, composed an etude nicknamed “Black Key” – all the notes in the right hand are on the black keys of the piano. Fabulous virtuosic piece.
Etude showed up on our front porch one day last fall. Skinny – afraid. Terrified. Fear in her eyes. We fed her. He came back – and back. And back. She ate our offerings. She got chunky – she also gained a little more trust. A lot more trusting now. She lets us pat her. She nuzzles our ankles. She meows. She looks at us with expressive eyes that could tell stories if she could speak human words.
Autumn became winter. It turned cold. Snowy. Etude became a regular visitor on our porch. She will not come inside. Our son in law, David, a wonderful architect, made her a beautiful house. Etude would not go in it. Not near it. We made her a less beautiful house from a cardboard box and straw. She still kept her distance from the box and preferred the winter elements. She kept coming over for meals. We wait for her visits everyday. We don’t know where she goes between meals.
Etude gradually trusted and adopted us. Her transformation – and ours – has been inspiring.
In the last several weeks, Etude has let us pat her more and he nuzzles against us. He meows loudly and seems comfortable with us– outside. He trusts us as best an abandoned animal can. We look for her every day. We are not disappointed.
Etude has shown us what care, concern, and love can do to foster a sense of security. She is no longer afraid of us – she comes closer to the front door more often – with curiosity about what’s on the other side. There are smudge marks from her wet nose on the door window. She has been looking in. We understand her meows – they are her music. She senses our interest in her welfare. Maybe she will come inside eventually. Etude no longer has performance anxiety. She is resilient. Etude knows we won’t reject her.
Wouldn’t it be great if people with stage fright could feel resilient and confident and not feel anxious about rejection?
I realize I broke through my writer’s block by just letting myself write whatever came to my mind – didn’t stop for grammar or corrections. Can edit later. Just write.
I recall reading that the jazz legend, Duke Ellington said there are two rules for being resilient
1) Don’t give up
2) Remember Rule No. 1
Etude apparently knows these “rules”. Even black cats can teach us important life lessons.
Don’t give up.
How do you deal with writer’s block or other forms of performance anxiety? I’d love to hear from you.
Featured photo by photosteve101
Photos of Etude by Julie Jaffee Nagel