Thursday, September 20, 2012

Barbra Streisand's Stage Fright

Some time in the late 90s I learned that Barbra Streisand suffered from stage fright. I was perplexed. How could someone with that much talent be afraid to sing in front of people? Because her condition didn't pertain to my life, I soon forgot about it. I'm sure I didn't even hear the term social anxiety disorder until years later. Notice how naming something adds to its weight?

I once had to testify in court. It was my civic duty and I was fine with the idea until I entered the court room. Suddenly I could barely walk. By the time I reached the stand I was sweating profusely. My insides were like mush. But I got through it and even managed to walk out despite rubbery legs. That was 20 years ago.

In hindsight my first reading as a published author was pretty pathetic, but I had nothing to base it on, so I concluded I'd done okay. Then I started receiving invitations to do more readings, and soon I was suffering the entire morning of each event from stage fright. Four years later, I became distressed 36 hours prior to the book launch of my second novel Broken but not Dead. I did five readings over a year's period and each time I couldn't sleep the night before and felt sick to my stomach for an entire two days prior to the reading.



Last March I got a call inviting me to read from my novels at the En'owkin Centre in the Okanagan, 775 km [450 m] south of Omineca's Cluculz Lake. The En'owkin Centre is home to the oldest Aboriginal publisher in Canada: Theytus. I was scheduled to read Sept 18, this past Tuesday.

Around Sept 10th, I began having difficulty sleeping. My stomach was upset and I was eating TUMS like there was no tomorrow. Worse, because I had to travel such a long distance, I not only couldn't sleep or eat, for a whole week I felt as if there were a big black cloud hanging over my head, despite the sunshine. I sensed gloom in every turn. 

They should rename social anxiety disorder the BARBRA STREISAND'S Stage Fright. Did I mention Miss Barbra is exactly 11 years and one day older than I am? While I'm not Jewish, but Metis, my husband is. The similarities have always appealed to me.

Did I mention how incredibly beautiful Penticton is?



The En'owkin Centre is equally impressive.


Jeannette is the director

The vast gathering room took my breath away. The warm welcome made my heart lighten. I knew immediately that I was in a safe place. Still, by the time I took my spot at the podium, I was shaking so badly you'd think I was freezing, yet my back was soaked with sweat. As I read the opening to my first novel, I kept my eyes on the page only because I was sure if I looked up I'd see people dazed with boredom. Actually one fellow did look tired, but it turned out he had just arrived from Germany.

The response from the audience was more than I imagined. After the reading and question period, we partook of deer meat, bread and goodies, a meal especially prepared for me. I had to laugh. I had arrived believing I'd be one of many authors, and ended up their special guest who got to fill her plate first! Did I mention they paid for the trip and even paid me for reading!

Next time I'm invited to read anywhere I'll remind myself that although it may not compare to the En'owkin Centre, I'll have a great time; I always seem to. And really, once I begin to read, my undying love for my protagonist takes over.



ps. I met a fellow who said it's been recorded that man's #2 fear of all things is public speaking. Did I mention he also knows Tina Keeper!
 

28 comments :

  1. I think the fear is also closely related to perfectionism. We ask ourselves to be perfect when in reality people relate much more with those who allow themselves to be vulnerable (just as in our writing--the characters are much more lovable and relatable when they are flawed.)

    Barbra is a well known perfectionist and it shows in her performance. I was lucky enough to see her in L.A. six years ago and have tickets for her Hollywood Bowl Nov 9th performance this year. She puts on an awesome show, though I am certain she finds fault that most would never imagine. As a vocal performer myself--I know this well. We know our music so well and any bobble is painful to us. The audience will relate to the person even more strongly than the perfection. It is something to remember when one finds oneself in front of a crowd :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's what she said about performing. Ever since she forgot the words in a '94 concert, she panicked. I think she's sought help since then.

      Delete
  2. I think Christine has a good point; that very well could be an aspect most don't consider. I am so glad it turned out well for you. Hope you can enjoy some down time this weekend! :)

    Thanks for sharing the great photos.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Karen. I had a great time, and I'll try to remember that for next time.

      Delete
  3. Congratulations on the event! :)

    ReplyDelete
  4. I'm glad you were able to find a way to get through the fear and anxiety. Some say to imagine your audience in their underwear, but that would just make me giggle.

    I have found my fears are lessened by looking around and finding one or two people who look receptive, friendly, or something similar, and meet their eyes from time to time.

    I have had greater fear from reading from my work than from giving a regular speech. Perhaps because I've had more practice at the speaking....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good point, Laurel. I'm also learning to make my first chapters more exciting and with less complicated pronunciations. haha. Works.

      Delete
  5. I've heard public speaking is the number one phobia! :) I love it, but it also terrifies me at the same time. It's really weird. Do you have a Toastmaster's where you are? They are amazing at helping you overcome that fear, from what I've heard. I'm going to my first meeting in October. :D Congrats on all your successes, Joylene! I can't think of anyone who deserves them more.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much, Adriana. Haha, I took toastmasters. Imagine what I sounded like before that. I think on the surface I sound fine and the audience probably thinks I'm comfortable. I hide the fact that I'm not well. It's what's going on in my head and body that shake me up.

      Delete
  6. You got through it! Speaking in front of others is not something I enjoy either.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. thanks, Alex. It's good to know I'm not alone.

      Delete
  7. Hi,

    I have been a social phobic all my life. Was diagnosed when I was about 33, now I'm 49 and have the skills to deal with Social Anxiety. It rarely has anything to do with my life...now.

    It's far more than stage fright or being a perfectionist. It has been known to stop me dead in my tracks. Locking me away from life. It takes being quiet, shy, nervous to a degree you don't want to ever visit.

    I have known since first diagnosed about Ms. Steisand's anxiety as well as Donny Osmond breaking into a cold sweat unable to walk onto his stage and not knowing why.

    Thank you, Joylene for writing this. Sometimes that quiet, stand-offish, cold person in the corner is really just scared to death.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Chris, for reminding all of us that shyness isn't always obvious.

      Delete

  8. Sounds like a fantastic evening, Joylene. The important part is that you made it through, and it will get easier. Loved the photos.

    In elementary school we had public speaking every year. It was horrible. Over time I've become more comfortable with it.Now, I often read in church and have found this really helps. Not so when I first started. My legs would shake and I was a nervous wreck.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hated reading in school, but i did it. I think the problem got worse with age. thanks, Laura.

      Delete
  9. I don't like public speaking. I'm a behind the scenes type of person. Sounds like you did great and what an exciting experience you had. Did you get to sell any of your books/sign them or was it just a reading/dinner event?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, we had a signing period after dinner. The whole experience was quite wonderful. Thanks, Susanne.

      Delete
  10. Hey Joylene,
    Ah yes, public speaking and the anxiety it can produce. Whenever I've done public speaking, I mention to everybody how nervous I am about public speaking and that verbalisation seems to help me and my um vast audience, feel at ease.
    I do relate to what you have said. Yet, with the welcoming ambiance, you did it! Barbra would be proud of you. For what it's worth, I know I am.
    Speaking of Penticton, I see the SS Sicamous is in that one photo. Just along the shore to the left of the paddle steamer, are a series of motels. I recall staying in one of those motels and you have brought back memories of the marvellous time I had. Heck, I remember Queen Victoria weekend and all those motorcycle gangs driving through Penticton...Sorry, I'm rambling...
    Well done and happy public speaking.
    Your starstruck fan, Gary

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I remember those lost weekends too, Gary! Or I imagined them. Hmm. Now I'm not sure. Happy Weekend!

      Delete
  11. I am so proud of you for fighting your way through the anxiety to perform so well. I think you were a hit with the crowd! I hope that makes it worth all the tummy sches and shaky knees. I would love to have a book reading, but then, I am a bit of a ham when it comes to performing. I just go into a different character than the real me.
    I should tell you I read to the old folks at the nursing home--not my book--and most of them went to sleep. sigh....I guess that's usual at this institution, so I'm not taking it personally. LOL..

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Janet, you are so cute. They fell asleep because of their meds. It was nothing to ... okay, maybe your soothing voice helped.

      Thanks!

      Delete
  12. As debilitating as that fear can be, it's also what makes you strive to be the best you can be. That's something, certainly more than a lot of people do. Way to go for facing your fears and moving forward.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Joylene, it sounds like you won the day. I've read where the best actors are nervous before a scene/going on stage, that the ones who don't take it seriously aren't nervous. I love the Barbra Streisand background. She's an amazing performer, one of my all-time favorites. Actually, I'm not surprised the two of you would have so much in common.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Kittie! What a sweet thing to say. Thanks.

      Delete
  14. What a wonderful honor and opportunity. Thanks for sharing.

    ReplyDelete

Thank you for visiting my blog. Please come in and sit for while. We will talk about writing. We will share our dreams. Then I will serve tea and cookies. Home made and Gluten Free.