"Required reading" for today's smart writer.

"Required reading" for today's smart writer.
Information & inspiration to hone your craft and increase your cash...Since 2009

Saturday, January 17, 2015

How to Avoid "Performance Anxiety" on the Virtual Stage!

"The world is a stage."---William Shakespeare

Many years ago, while watching the Tonight Show, I saw an interview aired with Michael Jackson.
Much to my surprise, he revealed a little-known fact that shocked the host and audience members across the nation.

This dynamic dancer, singer, "moon-walk" man and popular legend confessed that for decades he had suffered from stage fright.

Not long after that, in another TV chat with one of my all-time favorites, (Barbara Streisand), she discussed how she also often experienced panic attacks and stage jitters, before she sings at sold out concerts and other public forums.

Imagine that.
These incredibly talented artists with millions of fans, industry awards, and hit records under their belts have feared failure, felt uncertain, dealt with anxiety, and worried about meeting the expectations of their followers.
Sound familiar?

Though the medium may be different, the dynamics are the same for writers.
We all long for the validation and attention that being a "performing artist" affords us; whether it's through a blog post or video that goes viral, a book signing, an interview, or being recognized through a creative competition.

Still, it comes with a great deal of responsibility, angst, and pressure.
Wouldn't you agree?
I remember last year, when I received the awesome news that my site had been chosen as a "Top 25" Site for Writers. My fingers couldn't type the words fast enough, as I excitedly sent notification to friends and folks I barely knew, through an e-mail blast.

My blogging buddy Linda O responded: "Congrats. You're on the big stage now."
Then I went into panic mode.
I hadn't really thought of it that way, but it caused a sense of  hyper-awareness. And for awhile after that, I agonized over every. Single. Thing. I heavily scrutinized pieces produced, before they went public.
In my mind...the more eyes, the more expectations.

But, I've since then mellowed out. And you should too.
Accordingly, here are a few pointers to put you at greaser ease, as you ascend the ladder to success and heighten your platform.

Lights, camera, action!

Five Timely Tips to avoid performance anxiety on the "virtual stage"...

1. Make sure you rehearse.
That's right. Before sharing your "writer's voice" with the world, prepare. Formulate your thoughts on paper through an outline. Make sure it's cohesive and makes sense.  Then create a draft. Then revisit and revise. Then read it out loud.  Labor over your words so your readers won't have to.

2. Take a chill pill.
Relax. Be yourself. Know that some folks will dig you and some won't. Recognize that from time to time you may make a mistake--a spelling error, a quote that you attribute to the wrong person. Apologize. Correct it. Move on. "Lather, rinse, repeat." :-)

3. Don't forget the fun factor!
Word to the wise: you don't always have to come across as "stuffy" to show that you know your stuff! Let your hair down a little. Share a joke. Make fun of your writing failures. Break a few rules your English teacher taught you. If you're not having fun with your writing, chances are your audience won't either.

4. Honor your own truths.
For me, there's something very empowering about honoring my own truths. How about you?
Some of us struggle with how we will be perceived if we tackle a controversial issue in our writing. Like politics. Or immigration. Or religion. Or race relations. It can be tricky. Not everyone will support your position; you may even be criticized in a public forum, or lose followers. "Feel the fear and do it anyway." One thing you won't lose is your self-respect. As the good book states, "What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul?"

5. Have confidence in your competence.
Even good writers are notorious for self-doubt, unrealistic demands, and constant comparisons.
Sometimes we can be our own worst enemy. Cut yourself some slack. Always strive to become better, but never forget the progress you've made, or the obstacles you've overcome.

Additionally for me, it sometimes helps to pray, listen to some classical music, and have a cup of tea or two as I create.
Rituals can sometimes provide comfort, relaxation, and order too.

Follow these five tips to enhance your career, garner "groupies" and enjoy many encore performances in times ahead.
Exit left.

Thoughts? What rituals do you have that help you to unwind and "make nice" with your muse?
Have you ever suffered from performance anxiety in your writing?

Image Credit: Henry L. Jones (King without a crown)


  1. You are so right about taking a chill pill! I've been enjoying quite a few sales with one of my novels, but oh, the reviews! Some readers love it, others hate it, and others complain about things that make no sense. I repeat to myself two lines from Kipling's poem IF:
    "If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same..."
    Then I take a few deep breaths, avert my eyes from both the criticism and the praise, and to my best to move on.

    1. Jennifer Brown BanksJanuary 19, 2015 at 7:01 AM


      Thanks for sharing this. Sounds like you have a good handle on things. :-) You can't please everybody.

  2. I have, and it helps to chill and keep a good perspective, as you said. I try to look at it through the eyes of life's big picture. Will it matter in that respect? Some things, perhaps a little, other thing, not so much, Thanks for these good, encouraging points, Jen!

    1. Jennifer Brown BanksJanuary 19, 2015 at 7:08 AM

      Proper perspective is key. Much thanks, Karen!

  3. # 1 is of utmost importance. Revise and revisit again and again is another great point. I have performance anxiety when I TRY too hard to write. When I write from the heart and allow the words to flow, I get better results. Then, I must lay my WIP aside a day and return. I am revisiting my old poetry now, enticing myself with the thought of earning $. My best to you! You know your stuff.

    1. Jennifer Brown BanksJanuary 19, 2015 at 7:10 AM


      I have been working on some poetry projects as well. Thanks for your time and your kind compliment. :-) Good luck.

  4. Jennifer, You have no idea how timely this is for me. I have three public appearances coming up and I need all the help I can get. For one I have to speak for an hour or so. I'll be back to read this many times! Thanks.

  5. When I experience anxiety, I look back on my BIG accomplishments and remind myself that I've done well so far, but greater opportunities await. Then I tell myself that I
    can stay stuck or bust a move.

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  8. Thanks for this post Jennifer, I do find the idea about rehearsing interesting,

    Recently I read about a comedian that did 15 try-outs to test ideas on an audience, and such rehearsing does seem to make sense to be able to focus on topics that people can actualy relate to.

    Although it does make me wonder how reharsing might effect things like being spontaneous, honest and authentic.

  9. H.P.,
    You make a solid point here. Too much rehearsing can come across as "robotic" and unnatural. I appreciate the feedback. :-)

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