Dealing with Nervous Energy

This evening, I will be pitching my unfinished novel to a panel of strangers.

This is part of my novel-writing class and is mostly an exercise. But, it isn’t just an exercise. At the end of this evening, the panel will choose two of the pitches and request the first 20 pages of those manuscripts to share with the owner of the bookstore where our class meets. She will then show one or both of the pitches to the Chief Acquisitions Editor of a major publisher, with whom she has a personal relationship. The last time she did this with one of my instructor’s classes, the editor asked to see the full manuscript.

This is not a drill.

I have not been focusing well for the last three days.

This afternoon, I yielded to the wisdom I have acquired over three decades in theatre. I took a nap. (For those of you worried about the kids you know I homeschool, they were occupied and I was right near them.)

I have been writing this novel for over two years. I have been revising my pitch and synopsis for a month. A few extra hours of revising and prepping were going to make me more nervous, not improve my performance tonight.

And, sure enough, when I woke up, I was calmer.

My nerves will be on fire again later tonight, but I have to trust that I am as well rehearsed as possible and that I know my work. Tonight I will focus on deep breathing, relaxing my eyes, and talking to the panel with energy and enthusiasm. It is all I can do at this point.

I don’t know when I will hear whether or not my work will move on to the next stage of this process, but I will surely have another strong emotional response at that time.

How do you manage your nerves when you have something important at stake?


About Kate Arms-Roberts

Posted on May 9, 2012, in This Writing Life, Writing and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. in addition to deep breathing, I shake – shake it out. Our dog trainer told us that dogs shake in order to get rid of excess adrenaline, and to reward them when they do this instead of something inappropriate (like snapping). I think it works for humans too! Lately I’ve taken to having my audience breathe and shake with me (when appropriate). At a service on Sunday a Starr King student (winner of our sermon contest) admitted that she was nervous – evoked some laughter and everyone seemed more relaxed. It was a nice way of connecting with the audience! I liked it.

  2. Oh, good luck, Kate! When I get nervous I get very quiet and go deep within. I don’t want to talk to anybody or do anything, just get still and centered. This usually works for me.

  3. I hope it went well, Kate. In a way it’s all good. Perhaps you were one of the winners. Or you received some valuable experience in pitching your work. Few people get hired for a job after their first interview, but they learn from those interviews and bring those lessons into future ones. It sounds like you’re already down the road of honing your message, though, so I’m sure it went well.

    • Kate Arms-Roberts

      The experience was very valuable. It was great to have the mixed experience of knowing that a successful pitch could lead somewhere, but a poor one wasn’t going to embarrass me in front of someone who could hamper my career. The level of pressure got my adrenaline up and gave me practice managing it. And, I will never again have to pitch a novel for the first time.

  4. Hi Kate – How’d it go? Let us know how you handled the nervous energy, how it worked out, and what you’ve learned. Hope you’re having a fun day today.

    • Kate Arms-Roberts

      It went well. I caught myself speaking too fast and slowed things down by inviting in my easy focus. And the panel liked my pitch. It was the first of the decent ones and it was like a breath of fresh air in the room.

  5. Glad to hear it went well! Looking forward to hearing if they chose your pitch!

  1. Pingback: When Your Work is in Other People’s Hands « Kate Arms-Roberts

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