My Blue Muse Writing Life

October 13, 2004

Gut-wrenching Fear

Iíve been reading Victoria Changís blog about readings. Specifically the publicity after your first book. I canít even think about readings without feeling sick. I want to share my poetry, just not out loud. Wuss! There I said it. Iíve just never gotten used to speaking in public. And Iíve never practiced embodying my poems. I can do it in my head, but that wonít get me anywhere. One idea is to work with a local poet to help me with the performance aspect. Also, my husband is going to set me up with a mic, so I can practice reading and listening to myself recorded. A short-term goal is to post a couple of audio files here on my website. This all leads me to wonder about long-term goals. Take baby steps, so, for example, I could have read one poem at Dodge in the Open Reading tent. As I sat listening to folks read, I could feel the powerful urge to want to get up there, but I had conveniently forgot to bring any copies of my work with me. Could I have if I had brought a copy? Or would I have sat there in the audience unable to concentrate, folding my poem into smaller and smaller squares. Anyway, so Iím nearing 40 and I thought I was supposed to stop caring so much about what others thought of me. Iím ready for that now, please. If Iím going to get older, then I might as well start gaining some wisdom. Iím more ready for the phase where I donít care what I think. And thereís no point in tracing this fear back to any particular childhood tragedy, because on Oprah yesterday Tatum OíNeill revealed all sorts of shit and sheís still written a tell-all book and is out promoting it. I canít even imagine posting this silly blog that few will read, but I will. What is my excuse? Iím a very private person. Ha! More likely, Iím a very sick person! *wink* So, I wonít be scheduling any readings. At least not for now! Weíll see what happens when I turn 39 next month. Maybe something physical will happen. HmmÖis there a pill to help me with this fear? Cause Iíll swallow it.

Posted by mybluemuse at October 13, 2004 2:12 PM

I had an interesting conversation on this topic with some audience members in the reading series I host. In my past is an awful lot of college and community theater, so dressing funny and acting out in public has never been a problem for me, except when it came to my own words, my own poems. What I finally realized was that I was trying to suppress my individual and stage personae to present some kind of "poet's persona". I was ignoring my geeky/sarcasting nature and my extensive comedy relief theater experience and trying to be something I wasn't. Once I started letting my real face(s) be seen - both on the page and at the podium, the comfort came.

And I've mixed feelings about the opens at the Dodge. I did one in 2000, but not 02, and it never occurred to me to try one this year. It's a strange audience, I think, one that's equal parts irrational enthusiasm and tone-deaf ignorance (focused on their on poems and not listening to anyone else's).

I know NONE of this applies to your case, but thanks for giving me space to prattle on!

Posted by: David Vincenti at October 14, 2004 11:03 AM

Hi, David-

Thanks for your comments. I'd LOVE to feel comfortable in front of an audience. It seems as if you're either born with the performing gene or not. My limited experience was in choir in high school. I had a solo where I sang, "I said the cow all brown and white...". Maybe that's where my terror came from...those lyrics! :0)

As for Dodge, you know what? You're exactly right!


Posted by: PJ Taylor at October 14, 2004 4:55 PM

Like everything else in life that is worth doing, including writing, practice is key. Practice! Find an open mike, go forth and do it. It never gets easy, but it does get easier. And for goodness sake, never practice in front of a video camera. *Shudder* you will be haunted by the image for years to come. Trust me on this.

But do practice in front of an audience. Before I do a featured reading, I like to take my new poems to a regular open mike. The audiences are mostly (99.99%) poets themselves and very supportive. It's a good way to judge how a poem is received and responded to.


Posted by: Rebecca loudon at October 29, 2004 1:32 PM

I guess my advice was lame afterall. Good luck!

Posted by: Rebecca loudon at November 5, 2004 9:08 PM

Hi Rebecca,

Sorry for my late response. Our DSL was down for 10 days due to an upgrade in our area, so I've been away from my website. I DO thank you very much for your comments and DO comprehend the wisdom in your words. I have to get out there and deal with this fear, I only wish it wasn't such a fist in the stomach to even contemplate.

Thank you again for your thoughtful comments.

Posted by: PJ Taylor at November 6, 2004 12:01 AM

Try it PJ, I too am petrified of crowds, large masses of people--I start getting tense, nervous, and start sweating. But I still go out there and do it even if it is painful. They forced us to give lots of presentations in business school and this helped me a lot, but I still get really nervous. You can do it!

Posted by: Victoria chang at November 8, 2004 12:05 PM

Thanks, Victoria. I'm so out of the scene here in SF, I'm going to have to seek out some reading series. There's so much more going on in the East Bay!


Posted by: PJ Taylor at November 9, 2004 12:05 PM
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