I bombed at The Moth. Yep, in front of 300 people I performed so badly I was the lowest score of the night!
I don’t have storyteller imposter syndrome, I am an imposter, a storytelling imposter.
Or am I?
Let me review.
On reflection I think my story structure was sound. My story was heartfelt, it was personal, it was about a pivotal moment in my life and it was fun. I had practiced my story with two other experienced storytellers and they liked it.
But, and its a big but, my performance was bad.
My performance was bad because I lacked confidence.
I lacked confidence because I told myself things like ‘this story is a bit too homey for the predominantly childless(?) audience at The Moth’.
My performance was bad because I was the first woman who told a story, I was the first person over 25 who told a story (and I'm double that age) and I let these things rattle me.
My performance was bad because I went with a friend and I was self conscious in front of her. On the way to the event I told my friend ‘I definitely don’t have a winning story.’ With that belief firmly embedded, guess what, I didn’t have a winning story. In fact it was a losing story.
My performance was bad because eventually the dripping acid of self doubt reached a tipping point and the tension in my gut fed the doubts in my mind, and my self possession evaporated until I was dreading telling my story, when normally I am excited.
My performance was bad, because like all bad performances, the space between my ears was entertaining negative 'what ifs'. I had lost faith in my self and my story.
So how to be resilient?
Firstly I look for the things that went well, that I can feel good about.
I prepared well, my story was solid. I told it to someone after the Moth and she laughed all the way through and said the oh so soothing words ‘You’re good at this.’
Then I look to see what I can learn. Here are a few thoughts I had:
A poor performance is inevitable, it is an inherent part of ‘performing’ that you will fail, have a bad day, at some point. It is part of the territory.
Maybe it wasn’t a story I ought to have taken to the Moth?
Maybe I should always go to The Moth on my own?
I've written about the brutal nature of 'The Moth' scoring system elsewhere, so this time I was on the receiving end. And if not me, then someone else.
I definitely need to pay closer attention to my state of mind, to my self talk and performance psychology, before I tell.
One bad performance does not mean I’m not a good teller or teacher.
Maybe the Moth isn’t the best place for me to tell my stories?
This last question saw me reflecting and reaffirming that meaning making is essential in my approach to storytelling.
I like stories people tell that help me understand how they are learning, growing and changing as a human being, how they are making sense of this life. And while this is not shunned at The Moth, comedy definitely wins the day.
So I will still occasionally try my hand at telling on the Moth stage; they’re a wonderfully warm audience that claps and hollers even when you’re not that good and its the biggest storytelling gig in Melbourne.
But comedy is not my story bedrock, and at the risk of being considered a serious and overly intense storyteller, I stake my claim as a story meaning maker.
And now its over to you, dear readers, fess up, tell all….. please… tell me about your bombed storytellings.
It can only make us all appear a little more human, and storytelling the imperfect art that it is.
And in the end, what is failure but another potential story.