How I Leapt into the World of Spoken Word
Leaping isn't easy. It is dirty. Risky. Fraught with mistakes. Leap anyway. I did. I do. You should too.
I have a friend who once was an incredible high jumper. An actual leaper, not just a metaphorical one. His best jump was 7 feet. He's not especially tall or muscular (though remarkably fit). During one competition, one he had already won, he decided to set the bar at 7 feet, four inches. That's four inches higher than he had ever jumped. He stepped back to his mark, looked at the bar, and began his run, calculating every step. In the zone, he was focused his goal. Then, in classic fashion, he lifted his leg, threw up his shoulders and... whack! Nailed the bar and fell gloriously into the mat having not succeeded. He blew it.
I asked if he thought, if, under better conditions or better execution, he could've made the jump. He responded with maybe, explaining some technical things. Then, he pulled back, and acknowledged that it was conjecture. On that day, things were the way they were. He gave it his best and his best wasn't good enough for the goal. He gave it a shot. He leapt figuratively and literally.
That's all we get. That moment under whatever conditions to do our best. There may be other moments with better conditions, but that's how things are now. There are times to wait and prepare, certainly, but, as with my track and field friend, sometimes you need to choose now whether or not to risk.
I leap often. I'm not beyond flopping. My recent leaping involves recording spoken word songs. They aren't stories or poems, nor are they songs in the usual way, but something else altogether. On one hand, they are standard spoken word with some sort of soundtrack. What makes them something difference is the performance element. I'm not just delivering my lines, but I've created a character for each one. The soundtracks are bits and pieces I've intentionally mixed. Some might have me whistling, sipping coffee or breathing. Other bits mixed in are loops and effects to achieve the integrated ambiance I want.
Where's the risk? I write speeches for a living and coach my clients to a better delivery. They, or potential clients, might judge me for this. They might find my delivery too unusual. I get it. While I never want to unnecessarily lose a client, I'm OK with it. For me to be better at my job, I need to continually push the edges of myself and my craft.
I could've reduced the risk. I could've hired musicians. I could've gone to a studio and had my work professionally produced. Instead, I bought a good quality microphone and mixing software. I hired the manger of a music shop to quickly tutor me in the basics. I played a lot. As of this writing, I have two pieces, "Chicago" and "The Whistling People of Kildeer."
Oh, and I risked further. I entered them in a contest. I leapt.
Leap into the unknown.
"You see things; and you say, 'Why?' But I dream things that never were; and I say, 'Why not'?"
– George Bernard Shaw