“Choking”: How Embarrassment Prepares You for Public Speaking

Sometimes we choke on peanuts, and sometimes we choke on senior thesis presentations.  In both cases, you can’t breathe, you can’t talk, you can’t think, and the best thing you can do is flail your arms around for someone to come and help you before you faint.

Getting up in front of people to give a presentation or a speech can be just like that.  So can sitting at a seminar table with your peers, or talking to a professor about a paper.  Have you ever been talking to someone you want to impress (your boss, a professor, a celebrity, your idol) and mid-conversation you realize you have no idea what you’re talking about?  Even though you’ve been an attentive participant in the conversation until this point, suddenly it’s like you’ve forgotten what English sounds like and you have to keep asking, “What?” as though you didn’t hear the first time.  You become extremely self-conscious of each word that comes out of your mouth, and can’t remember why you’re saying them.  You ramble for a while, but there’s no saving it and you start to peter out, hoping it’s over soon so you can hide in your bedroom with a box of cookies and watch Liz Lemon do slightly more embarrassing things on 30 Rock.

You can’t Heimlich the fear out of yourself when giving a presentation or talking in class, but here is some helpful insight that may come to your rescue, even in your most embarrassing moments.

Why You Should Apply to Become a Writing Fellow

We are looking for the next group of Writing Fellows! For those of you who know that you want to apply, applications are due Thursday, April 5th at 1 PM. For those of you who are not so sure, here are a few of the many reasons why you should apply:

  • The Writer’s Process course: This course is required for Writing Fellows during the fall semester. In this class, you will not only read various articles about writing theory, how to teach writing, and how to help students with writing, but you will also gain insight into your own writing process. One of my favorite parts of this course was the intimate environment that allowed all of the WFITs (Writing Fellows In Training) to bond and learn together. You will be well-prepared (and excited!) to begin working in the Writing Center after this course.
  • Helping students: Barnard can be an extraordinarily competitive environment, so it is refreshing to have conversations with students that will help them think further about and become more confident in their writing. 
  • Helping yourself: There are many perks to being a Writing Fellow. For one, the pay is great, and there are many opportunities to earn extra money. I also feel like I am constantly learning about new subjects, new ideas, and new people whenever I work in the Writing Center or meet with a student from my attached class. You can’t help but to pick up new information when you’re reading a paper about Frankenstein and the sublime one day and a paper on Irish history the next day.
  • Becoming a part of the Writing Fellows Program: You will never feel alone once you become part of the Writing Fellows Program. With constant support from Pam Cobrin (the Writing and Speaking Fellows Director) and Cecelia  Lie (the Writing and Speaking Programs Coordinator), multiple large and small group meetings with Writing Fellows throughout the semester, and special programs like Fellow Fellows that allow you to bond and work with other WFs, there is always someone available to ask questions or seek advice. Working as a Writing Fellow is a learning process itself, so all Writing Fellows regardless of their level of experience or major are always looking to find new and better ways of working with students and writing.

Don’t wait any longer…apply now!

Henry Miller’s 11 Commandments for Writing

Henry Miller Ravishing his New Bride, linocut print by John Steins

As we all approach that time of the semester when we begin term papers, finish our theses, or balance both at the same time, it can often feel like we just need someone to tell us what to do to make it through.  Henry Miller’s 11 Commandments for Writing may not say exactly how to get that research paper done in a today, but they do give some consoling advice.  Namely, “Keep human! See people, go places, drink if you feel like it.” And “Don’t be a draught-horse! Work with pleasure only.” Working with pleasure often seems like a difficult task when all of your professors ask for a paper at the same time and you find yourself making the library your new abode, but remember to “Discard the program when you feel like it.”  Don’t drive yourself crazy.  “But go back to it next day.  Narrow down. Exclude.”  Even while working hard, a little taking care of yourself goes a long way.