The Pressures of Performance

I've got a couple of talks to do in the next few days, I've been spending some time sketching them out, and I've realised they're weighing on me in very different ways.

Next week, I'm at the wonderful Swanwick Writers' Summer School, where I'll be talking to an after dinner audience of around three hundred about books and writing.

That's a pressure enough, has seen me rewrite the speech several times already, and there are many more drafts to come, I suspect.

A quick visual interlude here and a confession; when I have doubts about my ability to perform and communicate, I fall back on remembering I can do passably ok with that most critical audience of all, and it helps...

Simon at Meavy school.jpg

(Not too many falling asleep there, happily.)

But back to the point of this blog, which is - I've been asked to open an exhibition to commemorate the outbreak of the First World War in the Devon village of Woodbury.

This time, there'll be just a few people to talk to, but does that ease the pressure, the need to make sure what I say is heartfelt, right and true, and as good as it can possibly be?

Not in the slightest, very far from it in fact.

It's left me musing on the different forms of tension for a writer - because we can be asked to adapt to so many varying situations in our work.

When we're talking writing - our home turf - the pressure comes from the love of the job and a desire to do right by your passion, to share it in a way which all can appreciate.

But outside of that, and some hard thinking is required - especially with a subject of such enormity as the First World War.

I've been going through what I plan to say time and again, wondering if mere words can ever do justice to the profound impact that conflict had on our world and so many people.

As a small example from my research - in the little village of Woodbury, they lost 40 men in the First World War, a sizeable proportion of their population.

And I've got to try to find the words to honour them, and all who suffered alongside them. Now that's pressure.

Writing is such a wonderful way of life, and words are what we do. But some words are much more important than others.