Story Direction

It was midterm project day for one of many classes and that meant pitches. Pitches involve describing a story or production that you are interested in developing as if to a potential audience of buyers. It involves some public speaking and a bit of research, but overall is not difficult or frightening.

I was still nervous.

In general I don’t mind public speaking (how I managed to be blessed with this advantage is beyond me) and in general I like pitching because I have a lot of ideas and often they only truly take shape once I’ve bounced then off a few people. But this pitch has been hanging over my head for weeks. It’s not that I didn’t know what I was going to talk about, or that I thought it was going to be difficult: rather, I felt confident about it.

I worried that I was feeling too confident.

I didn’t want to go in unprepared and get called out for bullshitting my way through an important project. I wanted to give the project the time out deserved. I wanted to do the research. I wanted to rehearse it and time it and get feedback from friends beforehand. That would have been great… It would’ve been great to have the time to have done that. To be fair, I did do research and I did rehearse and I did even get a little feedback from friends, but it was in broken, stolen moments and I never really had the chance to focus on it like it deserved.

So I was nervous. I regret to say that I barely heard the pitches before mine. I spent the time trying not to concentrate on my racing heart. I didn’t want my voice or my hands to shake when I stood up for my own presentation.

Now, yesterday was my Grandpa’s birthday. He’s dead now, but if he’d been alive be would’ve turned ninety seven. Guiltily, I’ll admit that I didn’t remember his birthday until I saw a Facebook post about it from my Mom in the afternoon; at which point it seemed a bit late to dedicate the day to him. In a moment of rare proactiveness I’d already written the post for yesterday’s blog.

So this morning I decided to dedicate today to Grandpa. I thought about his life for a while and about the fact that he was my namesake and what it would’ve been like if he’d been alive today. Later, sitting in class waiting to pitch, I thought about this dedication and some of the nerves and worries evaporated. Whether he was with me in spirit or not I certainly felt less alone. I had the feeling that it would be ok if I let go of the details of many presentation and to just trust that the words and names and facts would be there when I needed them.

They were.

I did the presentation and I feel like I killed it. I’m sure I’ll still get notes, but as least for tonight I feel like it was a success. It was certainly a relief.

One thing that I did discover in the course of the presentations was that it is very difficult for storytellers to not tell the whole story. More than once presenters got cut short on a summary of their story going into exquisite detail about each character’s arc as motivations. Less was definitely more: I discovered that a pitch doesn’t need to tell a story, it just needs to point the direction in which the story will take place. It doesn’t need to say: “listen” it just needs to say: “look”.

On that note: look, I need to go to bed.


~ by Gwydhar Gebien on March 25, 2015.

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