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Just Turn Up and Trust – How my 5 year old son confirmed my mantra

Apparently I am a fan of “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway”. Not that I’ve read it, I own it but I’ve not read it, but I am clearly a follower. I seem to have sold 44 tickets, on Kickstarter, to a show that I am going to perform in September and I have no idea what it is about. I dare to write this because I now, a week after selling the tickets, think I have a concept that it will work.

My approach to being creative is based on my experiences from working with Julia Cameron’s book “The Artist’s Way”, (which I have actually read but often don’t own due to lending it to people).

I first read the book, (which is actually a course in the form of a book), in 2004 and it lead to me completely changing all aspect of my life. So since attaining the Kickstarter support to do my next show I have gone back to “The Artists Way” (or TAW as I like to call it).

The first thing that strikes me from re-reading is that she tells the reader that the art is there, it is not our job to be a creator but merely to let the art come through. You turn up at the page and let the work arrive (or is that arise?).

I do have some ideas for this show. I want to tell the stories of some of the brilliant, inspirational people I know. I will talk about women because I am a woman and I know more than enough interesting women to fill many shows. Nothing against the men I know but for some reason I find it easier to play women. Many years ago I partook in a workshop at The Actor’s Centre, London with a great teacher/director called Simon Cox. We all told stories, which we then wrote them down. Then we swapped and told each others’ stories. I want to recreate this in my next show. I read the Vagina Monologues as it seems to be a similar concept. I can’t say who had the idea first, Eve Ensler or Simon Cox, perhaps it was like the serendipity that meant the Beatles took to the Magical Mystery Bus at the same time as Ken Kesey took his prankers on their Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.   Regardless, I’m inspired.

But that’s as far as I’ve got thus far. I am terrified. I feel the fear utterly. I am trying to follow Julia’s basic tools, when it doubt write your morning papers, (which is freehand writing of your thoughts for 3 pages every morning). Today they could have been named, morning afternoon and nightime papers. Re-reading this I wonder if I could call these musings morning papers. Ideas are emerging, I am finding inspiration.

I am checking out Vicki Stone again. (Note to anyone who has seen my shows she is the writer to “Beauty and Her Yeast”. I love her.) I have found a fabulous new songwriter Katie Thompson and at least one new song for the show. I have interviewed fabulous women and they have given me 3 lovely little monologues, one is funny, one moving and the last is hilarious and I hope to be doing a parody of Carole King’s The Reason using her exact words. I am going to be brave and put one original song into the show (oh no I’ll have to do it now that I’ve written it on here), I know that my show is out there and that it will be great. But there is something utterly terrifying about the blank page.

Which brings me back to the reasons why I wanted to write this blog, what I meant to write about. The other day I was talking with a member of my choir about what I should use to market myself. What my USP is and she told me that I constantly say “just do it. Don’t think, just do it.”

I had no idea but now I realise I say it all of the time. I believe that in singing, as when learning anything, people respond in one of two ways. If you’re lucky your brain will either tell you to go for it, but if you’re like about three quarters of my students your brain will tell you that you can’t do “it” whatever “it” may be. There’s that quote from Henry Ford “If you think you can or you think you can’t your right.” Well I see that proven true over and over.

Thinking doesn’t help. Perfectionism doesn’t help. All negative, fearful thinking, does, it block you up and make you tense. Your brain doesn’t know if you can do something unless you let your body give it a go. I know that if my body asked my brain if it could manage childbirth it would have laughed on the floor and my body would have never known what amazing things it can do.

When I see students inhaling earlier than is appropriate in a song because they think they are going to run out of breath I tell them to see what happens if they don’t breathe yet. Wait a little longer, push it a little bit. See what happens. The worst that could happen is that you faint and/or die. I say this with the knowledge that the body always holds onto a large amount of air and that when the singer needs to their body will breathe in. The issue is that the brain tells them to breathe in much earlier than they actually need to. (I must point out that I do check first if students have asthma or any other reason why they need to be careful when working on their breath). Invariably the student manages to sing a much longer phrase when they override the message that their brain is telling them. You don’t know what you can achieve until you actually try it out.

My elder son is in Reception at school. He is doing really well at school and thriving academically. His Dad is a clever sod who knows it and my family are all academics so the classroom is a safe place. Whilst I’m proud of his success it’s not a biggie because it’s easy for him. We expect it. On the other hand…

He has been going to gymnastics since September as well. In October all of the other kids passed their first badge but my son couldn’t get his badge. He can’t do his tuck and roll. The class is full of what I call “scary girls” in leotards. Just watching takes me back to being the fat girl at drama school in a dance class.  At the term end he insisted he wanted to continue with gymnastics.

Then in January, he realised he’s not a natural at gymnastics. He wanted to quit. He wanted to go to netball because his friends were going to netball. I was full of fear for him failing. He’s really short and I am pretty sure netball won’t be any easier for him than gymnastics. I laid down the law and said he has to continue. I had no faith that he would ever get tuck and roll and ever get his next badge. I hope he didn’t realise my total lack of faith.

Last week he got his badge. He hasn’t got his tuck and roll but he can do pike and roll which, according to his teacher, is much harder. I am so glad I pretended to have faith in him and I let him keep on trying, even though I found it painful watching him struggle. I am so much prouder of him for getting his gymnastics badge than I am of him for his maths. According to his teacher he struggles with being a perfectionist and can be a “Mr I Can’t” when anything is a challenge.   She says we need to keep telling him he is “Mr I Can” and not a “Mr I Can’t”. I think he may well prove to be my most challenging student yet.

I believe that you need to try things to see what you can manage. I’m not suggesting you invest massive amounts of time and energy in something that is miles beyond your reach. I suggesting you celebrate the small steps. Set goals that are slightly outside your safe place. I am pushing my students like mad to sing a solo in my next student concert. Some of them are terrified and other think that they won’t be ready. I just keep saying “Give it a go.” I hear myself saying my mantra over and over but I can’t stop myself.

Most of us think we are so much less than we actually are.   You never know unless you try.

Years ago, again at The Actor’s Centre, a teacher called Catherine Arton, inspired me with this quote. It is often attributed to Nelson Mandella but is in fact by Marinne Williamson. If you don’t believe in God swap in something you do believe in.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”