Posted by: Gwendolyn Huber | September 1, 2014

Making Friends With Fear

A fair number of the 12,000 folk who attend the Philadelphia Folk Festival are creative in a quirky way. If you want a safe place to dress up like a fairy princess or superman, to experience the freedom of a skirt if you’re a man, or wear that funky hat or cool outfit that you can’t wear anyplace else, the Philly Folk Fest, in Schwenksville, PA. is where you’ll want to be on the third weekend of August. 

Although I was there to hear music, writing is never far from my mind, so I parked my blanket on the side of the hill and went character shopping. Now where could I use a seventy some year old woman who is gutsy enough to wear a backless dress?

 That was entertaining but my writing take-away came from the fabulous songwriter and performer Janis Ian in her workshop, “How to make friends with fear onstage and off”.

I loved her advice for the performer, and that would include the writer who is reading aloud or who giving her elevator pitch.  Instead of the simple but true advice to breathe, she said, “when you’re afraid, you stop breathing, and when you’re not breathing you’re not getting enough oxygen to your brain, and that makes you stupid”. Yes, as a professional performer, I can identify with that observation.

Other valuable advice from Janis that I’ll add to my collection of tricks is to have one thing planned to think of for that moment when fear causes your mind to go entirely blank. She suggested remembering to stand with your best posture.

Her wisdom for the creator is that once you become a writer (or songwriter, singer, whatever it is that you do), you can’t un-become a writer. You can be a writer who isn’t writing, but you’re still a writer.

I found it curiously comforting and strangely motivating to think that I’m a writer even when I’m not writing.

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