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← Why I live in mortal dread of public speaking

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Showing Revision 6 created 08/08/2014 by Morton Bast.

  1. I didn't know when I agreed to do this
  2. whether I was expected to talk or to sing.
  3. But when I was told that the topic was language,
  4. I felt that I had to speak about something for a moment.
  5. I have a problem.

  6. It's not the worst thing in the world.
  7. I'm fine.
  8. I'm not on fire.
  9. I know that other people in the world
  10. have far worse things to deal with,
  11. but for me, language and music are
  12. inextricably linked through this one thing.
  13. And the thing is that I have a stutter.

  14. It might seem curious given that I spend
  15. a lot of my life on the stage.
  16. One would assume that I'm comfortable
  17. in the public sphere and comfortable here,
  18. speaking to you guys.
  19. But the truth is that I've spent
    my life up until this point
  20. and including this point, living in mortal dread
  21. of public speaking.
  22. Public singing, whole different thing. (Laughter)
  23. But we'll get to that in a moment.
  24. I've never really talked about it before so explicitly.
  25. I think that that's because I've always lived in hope
  26. that when I was a grown-up,
  27. I wouldn't have one.
  28. I sort of lived with this idea that when I'm grown,
  29. I'll have learned to speak French,
  30. and when I'm grown, I'll learn
    how to manage my money,
  31. and when I'm grown, I won't have a stutter,
  32. and then I'll be able to public speak
    and maybe be the prime minister
  33. and anything's possible and, you know.
  34. (Laughter)
  35. So I can talk about it now
  36. because I've reached this point, where —
  37. I mean, I'm 28.
  38. I'm pretty sure that I'm grown now.
  39. (Laughter)
  40. And I'm an adult woman
  41. who spends her life as a performer,
  42. with a speech impediment.
  43. So, I might as well come clean about it.
  44. There are some interesting
    angles to having a stutter.

  45. For me, the worst thing that can happen
  46. is meeting another stutterer.
  47. (Laughter)
  48. This happened to me in Hamburg, when
  49. this guy, we met and he said,
  50. "Hello, m-m-m-my name is Joe,"
  51. and I said, "Oh, hello, m-m-m-my name is Meg."
  52. Imagine my horror when I realized
  53. he thought I was making fun of him.
  54. (Laughter)
  55. People think I'm drunk all the time.

  56. (Laughter)
  57. People think that I've forgotten their name

  58. when I hesitate before saying it.
  59. And it is a very weird thing, because
  60. proper nouns are the worst.
  61. If I'm going to use the word
    "Wednesday" in a sentence,
  62. and I'm coming up to the word,
  63. and I can feel that I'm going to stutter or something,
  64. I can change the word to "tomorrow,"
  65. or "the day after Tuesday,"
  66. or something else.
  67. It's clunky, but you can get away with it,
  68. because over time I've developed this
  69. loophole method of using speech
  70. where right at the last minute you
  71. change the thing and you trick your brain.
  72. But with people's names, you can't change them.
  73. (Laughter)
  74. When I was singing a lot of jazz,
  75. I worked a lot with a pianist whose name was Steve.
  76. As you can probably gather,
  77. S's and T's, together or independently,
  78. are my kryptonite.
  79. But I would have to introduce the band
  80. over this rolling vamp,
  81. and when I got around to Steve,
  82. I'd often find myself stuck on the "St."
  83. And it was a bit awkward and uncomfortable
    and it totally kills the vibe.
  84. So after a few instances of this,
  85. Steve happily became "Seve,"
  86. and we got through it that way. (Laughter)
  87. I've had a lot of therapy,

  88. and a common form of treatment is to use
  89. this technique that's called smooth speech,
  90. which is where you almost
    sing everything that you say.
  91. You kind of join everything together in this
  92. very singsong, kindergarten teacher way,
  93. and it makes you sound very serene,
    like you've had lots of Valium,
  94. and everything is calm. (Laughter)
  95. That's not actually me.
  96. And I do use that. I do.
  97. I use it when I have to be on panel shows,
  98. or when I have to do radio interviews,
  99. when the economy of airtime is paramount.
  100. (Laughter)
  101. I get through it that way for my job.
  102. But as an artist who feels that their work
  103. is based solely on a platform of honesty
  104. and being real,
  105. that feels often like cheating.
  106. Which is why before I sing, I wanted to tell you

  107. what singing means to me.
  108. It's more than making nice sounds,
  109. and it's more than making nice songs.
  110. It's more than feeling known, or understood.
  111. It's more than making you feel the things that I feel.
  112. It's not about mythology,
  113. or mythologizing myself to you.
  114. Somehow, through some miraculous
  115. synaptic function of the human brain,
  116. it's impossible to stutter when you sing.
  117. And when I was younger,
    that was a method of treatment
  118. that worked very well for me,
  119. singing, so I did it a lot.
  120. And that's why I'm here today.
  121. (Applause)

  122. Thank you.

  123. Singing for me is sweet relief.

  124. It is the only time when I feel fluent.
  125. It is the only time when what comes out of my mouth
  126. is comprehensively exactly what I intended.
  127. (Laughter)
  128. So I know that this is a TED Talk,
  129. but now i'm going to TED sing.
  130. This is a song that I wrote last year.
  131. Thank you very much. Thank you.

  132. (Applause)

  133. (Piano)

  134. ♪ I would be a beauty ♪

  135. ♪ but my nose ♪

  136. ♪ is slightly too big ♪

  137. ♪ for my face ♪

  138. ♪ And I would be a dreamer ♪

  139. ♪ but my dream ♪

  140. ♪ is slightly too big ♪

  141. ♪ for this space ♪

  142. ♪ And I would be an angel ♪

  143. ♪ but my halo ♪

  144. ♪ it pales in the glow ♪

  145. ♪ of your grace ♪

  146. ♪ And I would be a joker ♪

  147. ♪ but that card looks silly when you play ♪

  148. ♪ your ace ♪

  149. ♪ I'd like to know ♪

  150. ♪ Are there stars in hell? ♪

  151. ♪ And I'd like to know ♪

  152. ♪ know if you can tell ♪

  153. ♪ that you make me lose everything I know ♪

  154. ♪ That I cannot choose to or not let go ♪

  155. ♪ And I'd stay forever ♪

  156. ♪ but my home ♪

  157. ♪ is slightly too far ♪

  158. ♪ from this place ♪

  159. ♪ And I swear I tried to ♪

  160. ♪ slow it down ♪

  161. ♪ when I am walking at your pace ♪

  162. ♪ But all I could think ♪

  163. ♪ idling through the cities ♪

  164. ♪ do I look pretty in the rain? ♪

  165. ♪ And I don't know how someone ♪

  166. ♪ quite so lovely ♪

  167. ♪ makes me feel ugly ♪

  168. ♪ So much shame ♪

  169. ♪ And I'd like to know ♪

  170. ♪ Are there stars in hell? ♪

  171. ♪ And I'd like to know ♪

  172. ♪ know if you can tell ♪

  173. ♪ that you make me lose everything I know ♪

  174. ♪ that I cannot choose to or not let go ♪

  175. Thank you very much. (Applause)