Occasionally, through my work, I am asked to give talks to groups of people. I am usually flattered to be asked but I always know the consequence of acceptance. How the serenity of my life,until the event has come and gone, will be disrupted. Once the date has been set, I find it difficult to shake the negative feelings I associate with the experience. And that negativity infects everything else. There might be a weekend break or a trip to the theatre. A film to see or a party to attend. A previously booked holiday. Whatever it might be, the feelings of excitement and joyful anticipation about any of those things happening are always tempered with anxiety: a toad on my back if you will, because I have to do that damn talk out of the way first. And I find I cannot look forward to anything. And I start to bitterly regret agreeing to do it.
What is it about the thought of public speaking that reduces certain people (me for example) into whimpering wimps? Why is it such a dread inducing activity? Is it not logical that if it is simple to address each person in the audience individually, and each person by definition is an individual, surely then, speaking to a hundred people together is no different from having a hundred 'one to ones' in a breath preserving, time saving manner?
My personal experience seems to refute that logic. On the night before, I'll worry and fuss over my script - it looked great, but now it looks…crap. And into the inevitable long night of wakefulness - the sort when you have to strain to close your eyes and it takes a monumental act of will to keep them closed. My head is fizzing as if from a caffeine overdose and my eyes want to disconnect themselves from their sockets and fly out of the window. I make a pact with myself not to look at the alarm clock - I'll only regret it, it can only give me unwelcome information…only give me, bad news.
And it's always going to be 03:15hrs, and I know that by not sleeping I'm guaranteed to make a piggy's bum of everything in the morning. And I imagine the dreaded scene, me standing there without a lucid thought inside my nervous, tired, boiling head. The fearful anticipation conjuring up a conspiracy of mind and body, a sort of self generated failure impulse to ensure that I'll be the worst me from my own personal repertoire. I could almost believe at times like this - and here I risk straying from my territory - that my soul loathes my body and wills it to fail.
I shall describe some other time how I function when I actually have to perform. Confront your fears they say. Writing as Therapy? - hmmm, I'll let you know.