Yesterday I wanted to enjoy the beautiful weather. When I’m outside I have a hard time staying focused on appreciating the day because my mind wanders so much. But I discovered a trick that helped me immensely.
I found a tennis ball and, while I was out there, I bounced it and tossed it. The bouncing of the ball kept me just focused enough to remain present, and because the day was so beautiful I was able to stay outside for a long time. It was the kind of thing I would have done as a kid without even thinking about it, and it really helped me to enjoy myself.
Did you think I was going to say that I wasn’t wearing any underwear? What an attention getter. But don’t feel cheated, because there’s a reason I chose to engage you that way…
In any creative endeavor, there are two steps that I find I must take, and I can’t leave either of them out. First I have to get the audience’s attention. Then I have to have something worthwhile for them to pay attention to.
If I leave out either of those things, I risk losing or even irritating my audience. If I don’t get their attention, it doesn’t matter how good my book or my performance is, the audience will most likely miss it. If I successfully get their attention and then have nothing to offer them, they will quickly go back to something that interests them, and may even be annoyed with me for distracting them.
I’ve been doing these two things for years, but I hadn’t really thought about them explicitly until I wrote a blog on teaching for The Atlanta Choral Exchange. Teachers have to get their students’ attention, and then have something meaningful waiting for them when the students are looking. Teaching is a kind of creation/performance, or creation/performance is a kind of teaching, so the same rules apply.
The thing about the ball that ties in so nicely is that it’s a perfect example of a model of getting attention (“Don’t lose the ball!”) and keeping it (“It’s so nice out!”) that makes for a really great experience. If I were to walk around outside, no matter how nice it is, I’d start dwelling on my bills or some nonsense like that. And if I were to bounce the ball in my house, I wouldn’t particularly enjoy the experience of being stuck in there.
The process of getting and keeping attention is tricky, and very subjective. There’s an art to it, and I’m still learning the best and worst ways. I use some version of this process whenever I have to reach an audience, in my books, my songs or my teaching.
Can you relate? Here, catch! What are you wearing when you face an audience?