When I Bomb, Tell Me I’m Beautiful

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Screen Shot 2016-04-12 at 1.35.45 PMAs you might expect, I meet a lot of people who want to write. In fact, I believe there was a recent stat that said something like 80% of Americans feel they have a book inside, waiting to get out.

My first suggestion is ALWAYS for folks to get their hands on a copy of “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft” by Stephen King. Now, I have another book to suggest…

“Writing Down the Bones” by Natalie Goldberg. Other than “On Writing”, this is the best book I’ve read on the subject. Goldberg is not only a writer, but also someone who has extensively studied meditation and mindfulness, both through her writing and through practice. This goes hand in hand with the Narrative Nursing workshops I lead for RNs all over the country. What do we want to accomplish? Better presence by clearing the mind through the use of storytelling.

“Bones” also includes many personal stories from Goldberg’s life. One of which is about when she gives public readings and lectures. We speakers and writers are often oversensitive about our art and performance. Goldberg tells the tale of always taking a friend to her public readings. This friend has only one job: immediately following the speech, this friend must rush forward to the platform, hug Goldberg, tell her that she’s beautiful and tell her she did a wonderful job.

Screen Shot 2016-04-12 at 1.32.55 PMWhen I first read this story, I felt close to the author. Why? Because we’ve all been there. We’ve all had presentations that didn’t go as we’d imagined, we’ve all gotten nervous or flustered when we’re supposed to be all calm, cool and collected…and we’ve all bombed.

Nearly 10 years ago, I bombed hardcore. It was in front of an audience of 1000 students at a university in California. The audience was comprised of student athletes, fraternity and sorority members and students who were on some type of probation; social or academic. It was a mandatory presentation. These days? I LOVE it when audiences are forced to be there. I get to break down that resistance and turn it into something enjoyable and something they’re glad they attended. Back then though? Not so much.

Screen Shot 2016-04-12 at 1.32.24 PMA group of students in the back started chit chatting, which led to more chit chatting and, next thing I’m doing is asking the audience to be quiet and listen. Wanna know how to get college students to be quiet and listen? It damn sure isn’t to say, “be quiet and listen!” The whole night was an embarrassment to myself and my profession. I really, REALLY could have used someone to lie to me that night. If someone had rushed up to the stage, hugged me and told me it was wonderful? I wouldn’t have believed him/her, but I would have appreciated it.

What impressed me so much about Goldberg’s story is her ability to know herself. She knows how she feels if she bombs, she knows what she needs AND she’s not afraid to tell a close friend exactly what to do if she has an off night. Just knowing oneself that well is something to behold…and it’s something I want to implement in my own life.

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