The thing that I've often found difficult about starting a performance is wearing the assumption that I should be the center of attention. Sometimes doesn't need to be done, and centering simply happens by the inertia of learned social narratives in some setups, where the rhythm of introduction and subsequent yielding of attention to the expected performance is a simple two-step everone knows. But the less formal a venue is the greater the possibility there is that you'll have to jumpstart the process, vying for attention
Suzanne Vega talks about choosing Tom's Diner as an opening song for her performances, in part because she noticed that whenever she began to sing it, "people would stop drinking and talking, and immediately whirl around and stare at the stage." Having something like that in a reperatoire is invaluable, every performer wants that, but not everone is so skilled and fortunate. And so there are other skills to learn when a starting piece doesn't turn out to be so compelling. You learn to pick venues that work better for you, you learn to wait for and read the moment when the audience is ready. And you learn to pull deep inside and remember that the reason you cared about performing in the first place: the experience you had with the music, what you felt when going through the material all by yourself, what moved you when it was just you and your voice at home. Even if it doesn't help capture new listeners in the room, you at least have the ears and heart of the first and inner fan that put faith in what you do.
This not-a-blog has been nearly silent for almost three years, and quiet for a lot longer. There've been reasons I stopped, good ones and bad ones, some hard changes and discovery of personal weaknesses that have made me unsure of my voice or what I have to say, some blessings that have made me more likely to express my thoughts and feelings directly to someone I've been lucky to have time close to. Recently I've been hobbled by my own desire to write all the blogging software from scratch, and I've put off writing until I could develop a comment system that might make this a conversation rather than a soliloquy, to open the avenue where I could talk to visitors, sense feedback from readers, whoever might come. All the meanwhile, I nearly forgot how to log in to the system I created, and I know the small number of friends and loved ones and strangers from the internet who have visited have been habituated to expect stillness and certanly little reason to return.
The room feels empty, or the audience engaged in the myriad of other available conversations. I don't have a Tom's Diner post to lead off with. And my voice still feels uncertain, perhaps more so. Maybe it's best to start this way, then, with no other alternative than to pull inside, remembering the reason why I ever cared to try this in the first place. Perhaps, as it sometimes does when you get up on stage, the rest will follow.