Monday, March 10, 2008


One of the things I love to do is to stand in front of a crowd and speak. This was not always the case. I once dreaded getting in front of people. My voice would shake because I would forget to breathe. I'd forget what I wanted to say and how I wanted to say it no matter how many times I practiced. When I was through making a presentation I couldn't remember if I said what I had planned. I wouldn't know if my audience enjoyed the talk. I would just know that I had not and that I made a complete fool out of myself.

The first talk I clearly remember giving was at an undergraduate research conference at CalTech during my Senior year of college. The wonderful thing about it was that we were all cut a little slack. At least that is what I told myself. (It's all about the little voice that you play over and over again in your head.) We were students after all and this experience was meant for learning. I made it through just fine. But the next few years of presentations were not so easy. After schooling, as a professional, I told myself that I was getting paid for my talks. I asked myself what would happen if people hated what I had to say. I never answered that question. The open ended query reverberated in my head leaving me nervous and certainly not at my best. Perhaps I was worried that they would shoot me on the spot. Maybe they would fire me? Maybe no one would ever show up to hear me talk again? After one presentation I made with a colleague at another institution a man in the audience (who was one of the biggest supporters of the library where I worked told me) "Don't quit your day job." That surely did a lot for my confidence, but I was not fired nor did they shoot me on the spot. But maybe he never returned for another one of my talks.

It wasn't until I began teaching that I started to enjoy speaking. First I began teaching computer classes to small groups of three or four at the library. Then, I moved on to teaching computer to Seniors at a local college. I became a young adult librarian and led book discussions. I then became a self-employed archives consultant and had to speak to large groups about all things related to historical records. The little voice in my head started saying, "They are interested in what I have to say!" Instead of screaming negativities that little voice edges me on. I love the art of "presentation" and like to think of it as a forum to exchange ideas with others. I am now asked to speak at many professional conferences in my field. Feedback on what I have to say is usually good. (Nobody's perfect.) I have often been told that the passion for my subject comes through and this is most important to me for I am nothing if not passionate.

So...what does this have to do with gardens or the arts? (It took me long enough to get to this point today didn't it?) This morning I was writing a presentation for the local Craftworkers Guild who have asked me to speak at their upcoming meeting this month. I will be presenting The Gardeners Soul for the first time. Someone was interested enough in the topic to invite me to speak so that's a good start. I am a little anxious about revealing my idea to the world, but I think I am more excited than anxious. That is what I am trying to get the voice in my head to repeat anyway. I am passionate about this subject. I am passionate about my work. I am passionate about nature. I am passionate about the act of creating, whether it is crafting or making "fine art." I am excited to share my passion with other to help elicit their passions. Maybe the audience will have a lot of ideas to share with me.

Now I need only to get over me fear of sending manuscripts out to publishers...

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