Audiences and Alien Abduction

February 2, 2014






When we’re in the midst of creating something, thinking too much about audiences can be limiting and obstructive—especially as our minds tend to go toward the negative, and internally it’s seldom, “Everyone will love this!” and much more likely, “Everyone will think this is the worst ever.”

But once our work is out in the world, we have more opportunities to connect.  Someone will come up after a show or a reading, or ask a question during a panel, or send us an email about our work.  (I’m not talking about reviewers, here, but just regular audience members.) These responses can be wonderful, enlightening, depressing or just perplexing.  Once someone came up to me after a performance of my science fiction opera with Anthony Davis, Under the Double Moon, completely convinced that I had shared her experience of being abducted by aliens.  (For the record, I’ve had the good fortune to have never been abducted by aliens, or anyone else.) People have also told me the stories of their ill-fated love affairs, failed patent applications, and rejected manuscripts.  They also often compare something I’ve written to something I’ve never heard of, convinced that my work was somehow derived from it.


Even if, like me, you aren’t famous at all, it’s always a little bit of a crush after a public appearance of any kind, but I try and listen to everyone who comes up to me, because every comment, no matter how seemingly out-of-the-blue, is a response to my work. I am happy people have been touched, or interested, or even aggravated, by what I created.

The greatest enjoyment for me is in creating the work, not presenting it.  This is true whether I’m working on something alone and the ideas are actually flowing, or sitting down with my long-time collaborators to bring something to life together.  And if it is a performance work, the rehearsals are always a happier and more involving experience than the actual performance itself, which goes by too quickly, and during which you are always listening for the audience’s response. But there is nonetheless something completely gratifying about hearing an audience laugh (when they are supposed to) or to see someone look like they are about to cry when the hero dies. You’ve hit the mark; they got it. 

And then it doesn’t matter if afterwards they ask you about your personal experiences on Alpha Centauri; they wouldn’t be asking if you hadn’t touched them.

Follow me on Twitter @DatherToo.

Applause Photo courtesy of Princess Theater—Raising the Curtain via Creative Commons License. Some rights reserved. 

UFO Photo Courtesy of  Dommeruk Creator:Dominic Harris via Creative Commons License. Some rights reserved.


Finding Your Inner Voice

November 26, 2012
by Leslie Zeigler
In this fast-track world we all now live in with iPads, Droids, Twitter, Facebook and Linked In,  we all may fear that if we dare to not have our devices within six inches we will be out of the loop.  I know that I have an ambivalent relationship to my own attachment to my now dinosaur Blackberry. Yet this is the new reality we all live in, and in order to survive, succeed and stay in touch, it would be really hard to turn off and tune out for very long. However, I sometimes think that tuning out is just what the metaphorical cultural doctor would prescribe if there were one.   My recommendation would be that during moments of high stress  (or even  medium or low stress) we turn off our devices to allow time to be creative and engage with our imaginations.
Five Minute Break
It could really be as simple as a five-minute break for reflection while walking to your car or subway (or possibly longer if you have the time.) In order to enhance your ability to do this, try to access your inner voice, which requires giving it some space to emerge. I find that those rare, and sometimes not so rare, moments when we can quiet all those various inner messages that try to demand our attention (almost as if our inner life were like a TV with many channels) are truly magic.   We are all familiar with our ever-present inner critic, who will try to tell us we don’t know enough, or that we aren’t really going to create something worthy of sharing. Perhaps we also hear our daily to-do list streaming through our minds, vying for our attention,  or maybe it is a message you keep hearing related to something your mother told you when you were just four years old.
 Finding Inner Calm
It can be a real challenge to find inner calm, to push the mute button on all these messages, and just relax and let go and let your intuition kick in.  You will not know where it is coming from, or how, but creative ideas and thoughts may just start to flow and it will be magic.  And for extra inspiration just remember the words of Steve  Jobs “don’t let  the noise of other’s opinions drown  out your own inner voice.”

Are you your worst naysayer? A Mindfulness mindset can help.

June 18, 2012

by Leslie Zeigler

We  often talk on this blog site about naysayers  –  you know who they are  –  the  people in your life, either from your past or your present,  who are are ever-so-skilled in delivering that  critical message.   The message  that has the power to be worse than a bee sting in its lingering sting.  It may not matter how confident you are about your  creative endeavor –  this message feels like just the opposite of an encouraging  comment.  It can make you doubt your own talents and abilities.  The person  may even think they are being  helpful  by saying:  “Perhaps you are wasting your time trying to write.  You must know you will never win a Pulitzer.”

Another form this naysaying might take  can be silence about anything you do that is creative –  a complete absence of comment, as if these people had selective amnesia when it comes to your creativity.  Sometimes this type of naysayer style can hurt even more than the overtly negative comment.

But what about the naysayer inside of you? Are you aware that you might be your own worst  naysayer  – the one who has the greatest power to stop you from pursuing your creative dream?  It can occur in a very subtle way  –  a brief occasional   internal message  that you may barely notice, like  “Are you sure you write well enough to keep working on that short story?”   Or perhaps you tell yourself you are wasting your money on those  workshops you are taking  to become  a better writer or classes to become a better painter, photographer,  actor, etc, etc., etc.  Or maybe it is not subtle at all –  maybe it a a loud, repetitive,  internal voice that says  you are really a fraud,  you really should just stop whatever passion you are directing towards your creativity and give up and focus your energy on anything else but being creative.

So what can you do?  First of all, understand that you cannot easily get rid of   this kind of  internal message.  Just trying to order it to stop it does not usually work.  It is rare to meet someone who does not struggle to some degree (the operative words) with self-doubt and harsh self-critical messages.

But there are things you can do.  The first step is to become your own detective of your internal naysayer  messages.  As you do this, begin  to raise your awareness  that the message is negative and just that – an  internal message –  not a fact.

In the book  The Mindful Way through Anxiety, by  Susan M. Orsillo, PhD,  Lizabeth Roemer, PhD, the authors say “The human mind is like a movie theater that never closes -always prepared to show films of what we fear.”

This is a beginning step to take in using mindfulness as  a way to help cope  better  with these understandably upsetting messages.  In my next blog post I will describe Step 2 in using mindfulness.