Poor Edom the Treasure Keeper, he didn’t get nearly the energy he should have at the University Bookstore – my first high-profile reading of my work. But, I learned something in the process.
It has been more than a week since I did my first public reading. There were things that I liked about it and things I’m less than pleased with regarding my performance. To my credit, I don’t think I was hanging with the fail whale, but I know I’m capable of more. I don’t know what it was but when I got up there, I just kind of froze. I walked up there and just started reading. I didn’t greet my audience; I just dove into the story. The whole mini speech I had practiced to prepare the listeners for what I was about to read didn’t happen. This evil voice in my head was squeaking and saying my story was crap…blah blah blah. Will anyone like it? Will I stumble over my words? Will my mouth get dry? What if I sneeze? (yes, how ridiculous is that?) What if people get up and leave? All these what-if scenarios closed my thought processes and I ended up being robotic. Not what I had planned at all. Oh, the silliness it was, as I reflect now.
I’ve had plenty of experience with public speaking. Hell, I used to butter my bread as a spokesperson for one of the largest employers in the United States. But, it’s different when it’s your art. You feel vulnerable. Raw. Open to attack. The defender inside of me came out – but that warrior woman wasn’t needed at that moment. No, I needed to give a piece of myself, but I resisted and my performance suffered. I was pushing away the feeling of being vulnerable.
That word – vulnerable – reminds me of my friend Kymberlee. Since I’ve known her she’s been on a mission to not avoid times that make her vulnerable and she has plenty of evidence to suggest that allowing yourself to be vulnerable brings more joy, grace and creativity to your life.
At the reading on Feb. 19, I was resisting that vulnerability, at least initially. Then I was afforded a gracious opportunity to read a selection from one of the other writers featured in the AT SECOND GLANCE anthology. I got to read from Pirate Games by Evan J. Peterson. I introduced the piece with a joke and a smile and all that doubt slithered off my shoulders and onto the floor where it died. I easily slinked into the voice of the piece and was animated. It felt freeing that it wasn’t mine and it showed – clearly. I was showing off someone else’s work. It felt easy and right and joyous. I allowed myself to be vulnerable and push my limits and it felt good. Just like Kymberlee tells me (us) all the time.
Next time I will do that with my own work, because what I realized a week out from this event is that people were mostly there because they cared about the project, my work or even just me. My sister-in-law even came up from Eugene, Ore. to see it – leaving an event with friends early, as well, to be there. On this side of the experience I know without hesitation, that for a first public reading, it was a smashing success. I look forward to opening up – being more vulnerable – at my next public reading and thereby receiving back the joy I give with my storytelling. Because, after all, it is all about sharing our stories, yes?
Right now, I’m scheduled to read my piece “Endless Trains of the Faithless” featured in the third volume of Views, Voices & Verses at Word Jazz at Boxley’s in North Bend on April 10th. I hope, again, to have many friendly faces in the audience. See you then.