Monday, January 02, 2006

Driving Away

I resolve to not listen to my performances as I drive away from them.

Along with many of you, I've had a whirlwind December and holiday season. Whether you were the presenter, the sponsor, the teacher or the librarian (or even several of those at times) there are no doubt some things you might look back on say, "I wish I could have done better."

I've been doing that lately. I performed at schools, libraries and private parties with much of the same seasonal material for all of them. That is, one series of stories adapted, changed, deleted and added for each unique audience. Each performance I recorded with my pocket recorder. Each performance I listened to after as I drove back to my office ( and several times over again) Each time I spent time beating myself up over what "I wish I could have done better."

Ahh, the joys of being an artist or sponsor. All that stuff we could have done better, could have done right. Funny, I can't seem to remember in these times of beating up that the sponsors came to me, some with tear in their eyes, thanking me for a moving and inspiring performance for their group. "Sean, this was exactly what I wanted."

It is time for my New Year's Resolution. It started when I noticed that there was something that I missed in the recordings and when I listened, I heard it happen in each and every recording, too. I was so busy StoryTelling with a capital "S" that I missed the moments of wonder.

There is a sound that audience members make, or even the whole audience makes, when at the end of a story they "get it." It may sound like, "ohh" or even a tongue click and a slight gasp or exhale of air. It could be that little smile out the side of the face along with a surprised "gerrr" sound. It may be in the sound of child literally saying, "I get it." It is in these moments that we are connecting our stories to our audience. I call these the "a-ha" moments in telling. You probably know these sounds, too.

I found I missed those *during* my performances this last season. I was too busy being The Teller and not busy enough taking in the energy back from my audience. What a loss for me and the audience. Did I move on too quickly after a story? Did they have time to let a story sink in before I went on being The Teller? Listening to the recordings as I resolved to be present and to not be judging, I heard many of these moments from my audiences. I used to be more aware of these during my performances, but somewhere along the lines in this last year, perfectionism slipped in and took over. So, this last season I traded being "perfect" (ha ha) for being present. Yuck.

So, what is my New Year's Resolution? I resolve to be as affirming to myself as I am to those that I coach, that is catching what I do right before I catch what I don't like. I resolve to be more present to the "a-ha" moments as they happen. I resolve that as I listen to a sponsor share with me their happiness with a performance that I will be present to that energy and receive it as it is given, not couching it my own buffer of , "I wish I could have done better." There is a time and place to listen to a performance regardless of how many people you are telling to and with. That time is as it is happening. Later, after some time has passed, you can go back and listen for techniques, but not right away.

I resolve to not listen to my performances as I drive away from them.

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