Thursday, January 28, 2016

Making room for fear: Inspiration for speakers from Elizabeth Gilbert

Author Elizabeth Gilbert's latest book, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, is about bringing your creativity forward, and at first glance, it may not seem like a book for public speakers. But that would require overlooking the words "beyond fear" in the title. And while listening to the audiobook (anyone surprised I like hearing authors speak out loud?), I caught this gem in a section on making room for--rather than running away from--your fear.

Gilbert uses the metaphor of a road trip for exploring your creativity, and suggests that you invite fear along for the ride, with some conditions. She even created a short "welcoming speech" inviting fear along. The speech gives fearful public speakers something they can read to themselves (and their fears) before embarking on the next presentation or speech:
Dearest Fear, Creativity and I are about to go on a road trip together. I understand you'll be joining us, because you always do. I acknowledge that you believe you have an important job to do in my life, and that you take your job seriously. Apparently. your job is to induce complete panic when I'm about to do anything interesting, and may I say you are superb at your job. So by all means, keep doing your job, if you feel you must. 
But I will also be doing my job on this road trip, which is to work hard and stay focused. And Creativity will be doing its job, which is to remain stimulating and inspiring. There's plenty of room in this vehicle for all of us, so make yourself at home. But understand this: Creativity and I are the only ones who will be making any decisions along the way. 
I recognize and respect that you are part of this family, so I will never exclude you from our activities, but still, your suggestions will never be followed. You're allowed to have a seat, and you're allowed to have a voice, but you are not allowed to have a vote. You're not allowed to touch the road maps, you're not allowed to suggest detours, you're not allowed to fiddle with the temperature. Dude, you are not even allowed to touch the radio. But above all else, my dear old familiar friend, you're absolutely forbidden to drive.
Now that's a way to face down your fear. I think of public speaking as an immensely creative act, as well as one on which fear comes along for the ride. Try this out when you're coaching yourself for the next speech or presentation you do.

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