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William Strutt: A Lioness Preparing to Spring (August 8, 1889)

"Appearing genuine requires much preparation."

The week leading up to The Muse's first public debate in her Port Commissioner campaign featured what might be labeled her PreperationDance. Intricate and filled with significance, this dance involves about as much ritual as invention, along with ample idle periods. She remains focused in story, if not necessarily in practice. She begs off almost every invitation, explaining that she's in the middle of preparation. There's no successful arguing against her assertion, for she's maintaining a laser-like focus on the prize. She will make up through repetitive practice whatever she lacks in raw talent. She will leave little to chance.

I first noticed the dance when I heard rattling and commotion coming from our almost unused front upstairs room.
We used it occasionally for her campaign's war room, but other than holding the original plan on unrolled butcher paper along one wall, we'd shunned it. She was setting a stage for her upcoming Zoom debate appearance. She had been dissatisfied with her office clutter as backdrop and was attempting to set up a more professional presence. She dragged in a carpet from the hall, trying to reduce the almost empty room's echo, and pulled in the screen she'd bought when she was working remotely at The Lab. Later, she insisted that I accompany her to an office supply store where she investigated LED podcasting lights that wouldn't cast shadows. That performance space slowly took shape.

She spent most of the week preparing her responses to the four questions the debate's organizers intended her to answer during her appearance. She was given the expected timing, so she set up her stopwatch and commenced refining her small speeches. She spent most of her time cutting sentences so she could deliver her responses in an almost leisurely fashion. She knew from Toastmasters and other experiences that the prime failure mode tends to be trying to say more than might reasonably fit in the allotted time. Hurried responses rarely demonstrate competence and tend to fluster the candidate, so she over-prepared, remaining largely dissatisfied through her many iterations.

She tested her preparation on a Zoom call with local Progressives the afternoon before the debate. She tried out the new light source there and showcased her completed stage. I sat in an adjacent room watching and listening closely, for she had charged me, her campaign mismanager, with providing feedback after the session so that she could adjust her presence for the all-important debate. The debate's moderator had not so carefully prepared his stage. Neither had The Muse's opponent, who seemed sublimely unprepared for the encounter. The Muse delivered crisp responses in well-practiced cadences, channeling one of her past life experiences as a church lector. The encounter seemed unfairly balanced in overwhelming favor of The Muse, who demonstrated in her performance the competence she aspires to provide once elected. Her opponent played the poster child of how failing to prepare prepares one for failure.

The dance made the difference. I will not argue that The Muse possesses many talents, though perhaps her greatest talent lies in her patience when preparing for a performance. She leaves almost nothing to chance. She sweats through even the infinitesimally tiny stuff, practicing until she can produce the desired effect, even should she somehow doze off once on stage. She works extremely hard to appear prepared, and it usually shows. She's already considered most of what any interested listener might hope to hear when she speaks. She's repeated her story so often by now that even I can usually successfully finish her stories, but they seem somehow less practiced the more she practices them. Appearing genuine requires much preparation. Authenticity on any stage demands just this kind of attention. GoodNuff doesn't necessarily mean "off the cuff."

Here's another
Preparation Story from my GlancingKnow Series, originally posted on October 30, 2019.

©2023 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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