I was recently selected to speak at the TEDx Mountainview college event. It was an honor to be a participant and I was truly excited to cross this aspiration off my bucket-list. I enjoy public speaking and I especially cherish every opportunity I have to speak on matters in which I am passionate. At this event my talk was titled, “The Year I Fed the Coyotes.” It was inspired from a book I wrote of the same title.
The talk addressed the challenges of creating and the courage it takes to live a creative life. During the talk, I had the terrible experience of stage fright and had to collect myself more than once. This never happens to me, I love to talk! Yet, I placed so much importance on this night, and this talk and wanted my message to be powerful and impactful that I psyched myself out and performed poorly.
Months later the iconic performer, song-writer and poet, Bob Dylan was acknowledged by the Noble Prize committee. He declined the offer to receive the award in person, thus the singer Patti Smith sang one of his songs in his place. Smith is most well-known for her song, “Because the Night,” co-written with Bruce Springstein in 1978. She was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007. Rolling Stone Magazine named her as one of the 100 greatest published artists.
Patti Smith is an accomplished, seasoned artist who has performed for thousands of people over the years. And, she experienced stage fright while performing Dylan’s song at the Noble Prize ceremony. She stopped abruptly in the middle of the song and said, “I’m sorry. I’m so nervous.” Smith, in an article in The New Yorker, after the performance, described an “overwhelming case of nerves…” She literally had to stop and gain her composure. She apologized to the royal audience and dignitaries in attendance. She struggled through her stage-fright and finished strong.
Her performance moved the audience to tears as her raw, humble rendition of the song captured the beauty and wisdom of Dylan’s words. Smith was singing the lyrics of one of the greatest poets of our time, it was perfect.
I was so disappointed that I did not perform to the level I know I can. There was not embarrassment; but, frustration and anxiety that I was not delivering the impactful, insightful, and entertaining message I know I’m capable. I was mad.
In retrospect, I see my performance was the message. I realize that my limitations of that night, reflected one night and one experience, and one more example of the challenges of creative expression. Most of the examples in my talk were constraints and limitations placed on an artist as they endeavor to express their view of the world. My talk demonstrated the self-imposed obstacles which make creation difficult as well. I would like to say, “I nailed it!” That I performed flawlessly that night. But, I didn’t and in retrospect, I think I performed beautifully. Because, in the end, the talk and performance are the message and my message is creativity takes courage, persistence and humility and this talk, that night challenged me as an observer of life and creative person. It was perfect.
You can view my talk at: You Tube video
You can read Patti Smith’s article in The New Yorker, titled, How Does it Feel, December 14, 2016.