Last week, I wrote a post describing my personal feelings about performance. The experience of being on stage, feeding off the energy of your audience, the relief of completing the show (with or without hitches), and the celebratory aftermath is exhilarating.
That post, and this one, are both inspired by a short conversation I had at a networking event. A fellow WBN member, who also happens to be a singer, shared her fears of blogging with me.
The fear of blogging is common. There is a widespread belief about social media that success and best practice lie in the sharing of intimate personal details. There are some very successful bloggers who have grown large audiences by opening up their minds and hearts to bear their souls in HTML. Sharing private stories can be provocative, leading to increased attention.
It's not hard to see how this belief persists.
I think it's okay to have a little fear. When it's in check, the fear of doing something new can help you identify exactly what concerns you have and decide how to proceed in a way that eases your fear.
When it comes to social media, that fear is motivation to set boundaries that establish our comfort zone. This becomes your personal playbook that you should never deviate from. Then your content becomes personable instead of being personal. There's nothing wrong with personal content as long as it doesn't take you so far outside your comfort zone that you begin to regret the choice.
In speaking to my friend, I had an AHA moment that clarified a bit part of what I get from blogging.
Blogging is like performing
1) Practice makes perfect (or, at the very least, good and ready).
As I write this post, it's practice. I'm practicing the craft of the written word. I'm practicing how I want to present ideas. I'm practicing giving my audience something for their valuable time and attention.
Even if I'm writing outside of this blog and no one sees it, that every day practice will help me get better in this space.
2) Publishing is nerve-wracking.
The more time, energy, and self you invest in something, the more you hope for a positive reception of your work. The prospect of a response, whether it's the response you want or not, can be nerve-wracking if you aren't used to it.
Hitting publish on a blog post is very much like those steps a performer takes onto a stage. There is anticipation, nervousness, and hopefulness all rolled into an adrenaline rush that propel a performer to great heights if they're ready. Fortunately, it gets easier over time - at least that's been my experience.
3) You feed off of your audience.
I have written pieces that take a huge time investment a number of times, and it's usually because I'm doing heavy research or navigating a potentially controversial topic.
It can be deflating and discouraging to hear crickets from your audience after a mammoth effort. On the other hand, I've written short, poignant or funny pieces that took 20 minutes and received lots of feedback.
Performers put energy out into the audience with their facial expressions and body language and overall commitment to the performance. A responsive audience laughs, cries, sits with rapt attention, which all gives back some of that energy to the performer. A blogger does the same with their words, hoping for a response. It's a happy day when comment notifications roll in.
4) You want to hit the right note with your audience.
When you take voice lessons, teachers will sometimes use visualizations of physical acts to help the student use better technique. As a soprano I was often singing songs that required me to stretch into the higher notes of my vocal range. My coach used one visualization that was quite effective.
Imagine yourself putting something on a high shelf. Instead of stretching to reach and barely getting it on the shelf, get a stepladder so that you can gently and safely place it on the shelf.
The visualization translates well to the act of singing.
Getting the stepladder is the act of breathing properly, using the diaphragm to support the voice. Reaching up and over the shelf describes using that support to it the high note with accuracy instead of falling flat.
The quality of writing is almost as important as what is being said. Well framed points with support for your views will hit a note. Whether it's the right note or not will become clear from the audience response.
5) Know yourself. Know your audience.
Knowing yourself is about acknowledging the passions that drive you, staying aware of non-negotiable boundaries, and preparing for all possible reactions to your work.
Knowing your audience takes time. First you have to build a loyal audience that relates to your work. Sometimes you'll hit the right note. Others you'll completely miss the mark. Thank goodness practice can help you improve. Find opportunities in those missed marks.
Do it anyway
Putting yourself out there can make you feel a spectrum of emotions: fear, anxiety, excitement, melancholy, and more. This is vulnerability. Being vulnerable isn't weak; it shows your inner strength. Once you acknowledge the things that give you fear and anxiety, figure out how you can manage those feelings.
Barbara Streisand is famous for her intense stage fright, but she goes out there anyway - on her terms. I know great speakers who get extremely nervous to the point of having physiological reactions that only make it worse, but they keep on seeking opportunities to walk on stage.
If there's something you truly want to do, don't let fear stop you from doing it.