Seven Deadly Bardic Sins – Part 7

by brendanthebard

7. Timidity

If pride (see previous post) is being so sure of yourself that you think people should love you just because you’re there, Timidity is being so UN-sure of yourself that you wrap yourself up into a tiny little ball of self-inflicted terror and fail to project your voice beyond the tip of your nose (not to mention make any connection with the audience).

Even if you’re @#$%^&* AWESOME.

Getting up in front of people is scary.  We get that.  That’s the whole point of Bardic Safe Zones (BSZ) – a venue where the audience is gentle, friendly, supportive, appreciative, and non-judgmental (though we’ll give you constructive feedback IF you ask for it).

A BSZ is a place to try out new stuff.  It’s a place where it’s safe to be new, to be raw, to be a little (or a lot) scared.  It’s a safe place to reflexively apologize in advance, to flub, to crash and burn – and then laugh about it, because we’ve all been there and done that.

And it’s perfectly okay to never perform outside of that safe space if you’re not comfortable doing so.

Let me repeat that.  (Read this  s l o w l y . . . ): It is perfectly okay to never perform outside of that safe space *.

While it is generally A Good Thing to stretch the edges of your comfort zone, there is NEVER a requirement to leap well outside of it.  If you want to, you can.  But you should never feel forced.

No question, it is somewhat daunting to walk out on stage in front of several hundred people who have paid real  money to see someone else perform. (Back in the late 80’s I agreed to open a local club gig for guitar hero Eric Johnson.  I started my set with a two-chord song, “Horse With no Name” because I knew that I could play it even if I was in a coma.)

It’s kinda strange to speak into a microphone and hear your voice coming out of baseball stadium loudspeakers sixty yards away.  (We did a melee demo on the field after a local AA-ball game a couple of years ago.  I volunteered to herald.)

I’ve never been particularly bothered by stage fright, but I think I can understand it.  I’ve seen people who were clearly intimidated by the idea of performing something they knew well in front of a small group of really supportive people, in a friend’s living room.  Heck, I’m told that Barbara Streisand – one of the great voices of the past century – absolutely hated performing live.

I’ve seen people try to perform in non-BSZ venues before they were ready to do so. And in many cases, I’ve cringed.  Not because they were bad (though some were).  But because I knew that they had screwed their courage to the sticking place, stepped out as bravely as they could, (some of them apologizing!) and were going to be met with only polite applause.  (See Overreach, above.)

I WANT performers to succeed.  I WANT their audiences to be transported. I WANT to hear that moment of silence before the applause.  I WANT to feel that “Ohhh… WOW” myself.

You can’t make that happen if you’re emulating a mouse. (Reepicheep being the exception, of course!)

* Re: “…never perform outside of that safe space.”    Someone is certain to take that as me saying, “Some of you should never perform in public.”  As my high school drafting teacher was fond of saying, “WRONGO!!”  At the risk of riffing on Bilbo’s farewell speech, the point is this:

No one should ever feel pressured to risk making a mistake in front of people that they feel they can’t risk making a mistake in front of.

IOW, if you don’t want to, DON’T!  It’s okay.  This is a hobby.  It’s supposed to be fun.  If it’s not going to be fun for you to perform in a certain venue, do yourself a favor and don’t. It’s ok, really.  Better to not perform at all than to be so mouselike that people can’t even hear you!  Note that this absolutely Does Not Apply to giving it a try, getting your toes damp. and stepping way outside your comfort zone IN A BARDIC SAFE ZONE.  That’s what the BSZ is for!