“Oh mom, you’re going to be fine.” That’s my 21-year-old responding to me this morning on Facetime when I told her that I was flipping out about my brand new 5-month Wild Writing Teacher Training, which starts in one week.
“You got this,” she said, rolling her eyes, and moving on to things more pressing, like “look how my skin is clearing up,” she says, bringing the Iphone up against her forehead so I can see every pore on her sweet little face.
She’s right. I could teach the training this very minute, even if I’d gotten no sleep, hadn’t put my contacts in, had shown up with bed head, not enough coffee, no notes, and had forgotten to put on my pants. I mean, I’ve been doing this work for 25 years. It’s in my bones. But apparently, so is anxiety and perfectionism because I seem to need to go through a sickening amount of grief before I can swim like a brave little fish into new waters.
- Will the students be happy?
- Is there enough content to warrant a real training?
- Will my brain go blank in the middle of teaching and I’ll forget what I’m talking about?
- Can I really help these good people become Wild Writing teachers?
- Will they get their money’s worth?
- Is the coffee strong enough? Should I have gotten more chocolate?
Nothing like a good dose of perfectionism mixed with the fear of humiliation to keep me awake at night. Not only that, but this anxiety has had me stay as close to home as I could these last few months, begging off dates and plans with friends because I believed that if I just stare at my notes and rearrange them 50,000 times I’ll unlock the secrets to the training and it will be PERFECT!
This is nuts and I know it. As a creative person I instinctively know that having the perfect notes, the air tight exercises, and the perfectly intelligent things to say will kill the juju magic that might otherwise saunter in when I’m not expecting it – the juju magic that I hadn’t even planned for, and which – if I’m lucky – will grace my training. But I’ve got to let go of the reins for it to happen.
It’s total wabi sabi, a bow to imperfection, and it also reminds me of the Leonard Cohen quote, “There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”
So why would I want to kill the aliveness just to look good?
If anyone hates staying within the lines it’s me, but look how nervousness wants to turn me into a scared little school girl, reciting straight from the book so I can get an A?
I like what my friend Michael, a savvy businessman who pitches ideas to Fortune 500 companies said to me about his anxiety when he’s going into these meetings.
“There’s something about nervousness being connected to creativity,” he began. “The presentations I’ve done where it’s like I’m just plugging in a CD and playing it like I’m on automatic, those have no creativity. But the new presentations, the big ones, where I’m nervous means the creative brain is active. I’m thinking on my feet, my antenna is out and I’m reading my audience.”
I love that. He’s loose, but he’s connected. But what about all his notes, all that getting ready?
“Of course I prep,” he tells me. “But once I’m in the room, I let go. I don’t try to remember anything – just let it be original, authentic. I want to connect. I want to remove the barrier between me and who I’m presenting to.”
Michael trusts himself, like it’s in his bones, like it’s coming through him.
“Well what about any secret talismans you bring into the room?” I ask him. (I love how I’m still looking for some secret weapon to make everything work out!)
“The only thing I carry is a handkerchief,” Michael says, “which is a tribute to my father – and which reminds me to be a gentleman. I also try to stay grateful for all who’ve helped me, mentored me, and taught me lessons. If I can carry them in my heart, it’s like an army standing behind me.”
Boom. Thank you Yoda.
And honestly, this little exchange I had with Michael as I was writing this blog calmed me down.
It reminded me that while I’ll probably be adding to those notes right up until I walk into that workshop, the only things that I really need to bring into the Wild Writer Teacher Training are:
- Gratitude that this creative mishegas is my work.
- Trust that the material really is in my bones and not in my notes.
- Appreciation for the 10 souls who are traveling across bridges and oceans and state lines to work with me.
And mostly a big bow to the work itself, which is not about me, but which is a wildly creative process that is healing and beautiful and wants to be shared with more people. That’s what we’re really doing in that room. That’s what the training is about. Amen!