Before you even open your mouth to utter your first syllable—before you even set foot in the booth—know that there’s already an internal monologue going on inside your little noggin. In fact, I can hear it all the way over here like some small child banging on a tin pan with a hammer and—what’s that? It’s assessing and coloring your every move.

That head of yours is going to keep chatting away whether you like it or not. The ultimate point here is that you can’t tell yourself how not to do something!

Say it. Go on—say it out loud. You can’t tell yourself how NOT to do something. It’s fruitless. If you do, you are concentrating on how you DON’T want the spot to go and, as a result, that is precisely how your performance actually will go. Mark my words. I call it “banana directing.” As if you’re telling yourself, “Whatever you do, don’t think of a banana.”

What did I tell you? You’ve got a big, bright, shiny yellow one dangling there in the ether, now don’t ya?

You’re brain doesn’t register the “don’t” when you’re telling yourself how to do something. It only gets “banana.” Same goes for performance—if you’re directed to “Keep the beginning just like it was, but DON’T go up on the word pupil,” you’re going to have to tell yourself to go down on the word pupil. Reverse the flow, as it were.

How does that work? Well, nearest I can figure it, you don’t generally tell a computer how NOT to do something. And what you have up there in your skull (you know, your brain) happens to be the most effective computer you’ve got at your access. Therefore, you have to tell it how you want the read to go—not the other way around! Whatever elements you want to employ into your delivery, be sure you run down your mental checklist prior to going into the next read, tell yourself what you want in the delivery and then just GO! Be decisive! That’s how this whole performance thing really works.

What’s that? All this seems a bit simplistic? Give it a try! Go ahead. I dare you. There’s power in simplicity. Never underestimate it.

The reason this consistently works so well is simply because that’s how your noodle operates. You have to tell it how to do something, not how NOT to do something.

Yes, I’m repeating myself—I’m trying to get a point across here. Some folks are only just coming out of the fog! Granted, this idea is a bit of a mental pretzel at first glance, but it’s the truth.

You’ll want to keep this hot little tip in mind during your next performance—especially when you find yourself doing take after take after take, and the entire experience starts to become something of a surreal event. How many takes of the word “if” can you do while giving it some variety and staying completely out of your head?

That recording booth can become something of a sensory deprivation tank if you’re not careful. As talent, we’re expected to keep our imagination alive and vivid and our delivery playful.

Copyright © 2009 by Kate McClanaghan, Inc. All Rights Reserved