People always ask me if I get nervous before I get on stage for comedy, hosting, acting or speaking and I always answer the same….YES!
The moments before I hear my name and step on stage in the bright lights and in front of the microphone are riddled with self-doubt, anxiety, sweat and nerves. Every single time! Seriously! Often people think I am exaggerating, but the truth is putting yourself out there, being vulnerable and volunteering to be judged is a scary thing.
Then the next obvious question comes, “Then why do it??”
My answer comes swiftly, “because I was made to do this, I absolutely LOVE it!”
The secret I rarely tell them is that I go through a psychological phenomenon called the “fight or flight response” before every performance. I have put myself into a risky situation (being judged, fear of failing) and I make a choice whether to run away (not perform, cancel, feign a heart attack and leave on a stretcher) or “fight” (jump in with both feet, perform like I’ve never performed before, giver!)
Last night I experienced what I like to call a “Write or Flight” response when competing at this month’s Write Club Toronto. The premise is two writers compete to defend two opposing ideas–in my case FRIEND vs STRANGER. The writers can write in any style (poetry, essay, story, debate) and the audience decides the winner.
I was competing agains Evan Munday, a writer, publisher and all-around cool guy who had previously won his round at the first Write Club Toronto. We were randomly drawn to go last and he won the rock-paper-scissors battle and chose to read his piece first.
That meant I was to read dead last for the night after a reigning champ, in front of a room of amazingly talented writers, performers, comedians and more. I felt ill!
Evan went up and did an amazing job defending STRANGER, he was funny, engaging and smart. The audience applauded and I made a choice…do I run away, do I meekly go up and acquiesce to a true champ, or do I give it every ounce of energy and love for performing that I have?
I chose the latter and it was amazing! I defended FRIEND with an embelished story of my first memory of making a friend in Kindergarten. I got laughs, I was on point and I delivered one of the best performances of my life!
The audience voted for me and the Boys & Girls Club of Toronto will get a donation because of it, but even more long lasting for me was that I did it…again. Again I chose to stand up and be brave in the face of nerves, sweat, self doubt and my flight response. Sometimes choosing FIGHT can be the best choice of your life!