Last night I went to The Moth Story Slam for the first time. Ten people get picked to go up on stage and tell a five-minute story. If they pull your name out of the bag, up you go. I was picked second.
My legs shook the whole time. I lost my place in the story twice, which was terrifying. A pause, a nervous laugh, then I somehow made it back on track. Did the audience notice?
I thought getting up on stage was one of my super powers. I’ve done it countless times. I don’t usually get that shaking in my legs – instead my nervous energy is fueled into performance energy. I know the playbook, I know where to go. It simply comes from doing it over and over again. Each show is a practice for the next.
So how was this different? I’m always telling stories when I introduce my songs. But the Story Slam was timed, with three sets of judges, and a crowd full of people who didn’t just come to hear me. I played a small part, but this wasn’t my show. It was unfamiliar territory.
Have you heard about the “French Jerry Seinfeld?” Hugely famous in his own country, Gad Elmaleh dared to move to the US to try his hand at American stand up. He found it thrilling and scary to throw a joke out there, not knowing if it would land. He struggled with learning the language, the culture; he fell flat many times. He could’ve gone back to France where everyone loved him, where he could do no wrong. But this was his American dream. He took that leap and now he has a special on Netflix.
What comes easy to you? What scares you? If you believe you have “stage fright” or “cold feet,” well by all means, jump right in! It’s only a hurdle and you’ll feel so great when you make it over. Welcome to the scary side of fun. 😬
I’ll leave you with a quote by Ira Glass, host of This American Life:
“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”
Perfect segue to my song You Gotta Go Through. I’ll be breaking through “like a cannonball boom boom boom” this weekend – my first ever show at the Boom Boom Room! Read more about this happy hour set and other upcoming events here.