Putting it Out There

Photo courtesy of Rockymusic.org

Thanks to all who offered support for my debut at Open Mike Night.  Thoughts Appear asked, in her comment, how it went.  It went something like this.

In the afternoon, I carefully selected about 6 of my favorite posts for my readings.  My printer jammed a couple of times and I swore like a sailor.  I started to get a little nauseous.  Apparently I hit on the correct combination of 4 letter words that aligned the mechanisms for the print cartridge, paper tray, and squeaky rollers inside my printer.  Shit.  I can’t read type that small.  I enlarged the font, reprinted, and sweated a lot; but I manage to swear a little less this round.

I took a shower and put on a sundress (it was about 100 degrees).  I soon needed another shower – how can it possibly be this hot?  I felt a little more nauseous.  I re-read the poems/posts/articles I had written and declared them to be “poop on a stick”.

Sweet Cheeks and I got to the venue early to have dinner before the event.  He asked if he could have a little preview of what I will perform.  I declined, telling him I would like to have him just listen when I read, feel the words.  I felt even more nauseous.  I did, however, manage to eat every bite.  I have never been nervous enough, in this lifetime, to lose my appetite.  However, I now felt like the nausea had a little something to work with.  This could be bad.

I clutched my folder containing the poop-on-a-stick and searched for a spot in the audience area where there might be a breeze (non-existent, it is now 110 degrees).  I definitely need another shower.  There was a fountain and I briefly considered wading in it, or better yet, lying down in the 12 inch deep water.  Instead, I fanned myself with the folder.  It was getting soggy from my sweaty hands, and I feared my papers would disintegrate.

A band was setting up on the stage.  They had asked the writing group permission to perform a couple of songs.  I’m not sure if they were original songs, but we never really turn anybody down.  They spent a lot of time getting set up.  I spend a lot of time fanning myself and looking for a planter or trash receptacle to vomit in should the need arise.

A professor from the college came around to take down names of anyone who wished to read/recite/perform.  I tell him I “might” read a few things.  Another professor showed up, whom I’ve met before at a writer’s workshop.  He was actually the one who told me to quit talking about writing and starting doing it.  He remembered, and shook my sweaty hand, and thankfully, did not recoil in disgust as my dripping fingers slid from his grip (okay, I’m embellishing it a little, but it was damned hot and I was sweating bullets, as they say).  Once again, I do not throw up.

The first prof introduced himself and the band performed their 2 songs (they were actually pretty good).  The prof then read a few of his poems and essays.  Halfway through his readings, I excused myself to find a ladies room.  I splashed water on my face and wrists.  Either I am going to throw up or I will be the first spontaneous human combustion in the history of the writing group.  I returned to my seat.  Neither happened.

My name was called and I went on stage.  Until this very moment I am not even sure I will read anything.  I introduced myself and tell everyone (about 10 people, including the band) that I am a nurse, not a writer.  I started, slowly, trying to enunciate clearly.   During the first piece the prof/emcee walked over to my husband and whispered something to him.  At the end of the first piece there was applause.  I wanted to sit down, but decided to read another piece.  I am drenched in sweat and alternately fan myself and try to blow my bangs from my eyes, but they are too heavy with perspiration to move.  However, I no longer feel nauseous.

At the end of the second piece, one of the band members yelled up at me – “You are a writer”.  I probably blushed, but I was so damned hot it wouldn’t matter anyway. I read 2 more pieces – I nearly cried when I read about being a nurse and caring for my patients until their last breath. I got some laughs with my piece about the Housewives of Charlotte County.  I did cry a little when I read my 9/11 etheree We Can Never Be the Same.   I left the stage and saw a tear on the cheek of my beloved.  He smiled and took my hand.

A student from the college reads a few poems – including one written for her autistic brother, Mikey, who is in attendance.  He cheered loudly, as we all did.

When the program is over, we mingled around the front of the stage.  One woman told me she cried during “Where I am From“.  Everyone commented on their favorite piece.  The professors both told me I was “fabulous” and certainly must bring back more of my writing.  The student poet, and her family, surrounded me and we chatted a long time.   I was humbled that the audience was touched.

As we were leaving, my husband told me that the professor had come over to him shortly after I started reading and whispered “she is fabulous”.  He (my husband) was immensely proud.  I was exceedingly tired and damp.

As a teacher, I am not afraid of public speaking.  But this was the first time I had shared my writing with anyone outside of my blog, and it really was terrifying.  It is not easy to share your innermost thoughts with not only the person you have spent most of your adult life with, but perfect strangers as well.

If you have a writer’s group in your area, I encourage you to go to their meetings.  If there isn’t one, I would suggest you contact the community colleges in the area and see if there is any interest.  Or contact some coffeehouses (like those are hard to find!) and see if there are any opportunities.  But share your work, put it out there.  There was something very terrifying about holding forth a creation and saying “Here it is. This is me. I hope you like it.”  But there is also something tremendously satisfying about knowing that your words moved someone.

There is also a lot to be said for not throwing up.

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31 Comments

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31 responses to “Putting it Out There

  1. Brava. Really wonderful…and funny to boot. ” Damp”…such a choice, funny, adjective. well done. continue…

  2. You are my hero! I completely empathize. Maybe after I win my Adult Spelling Bee I will try the same!

  3. Congratulations – that was a big accomplishment! Good description of the event, too.

  4. Your bravery has inspired me. Maybe I will be as brave some day. This post is exactly why he said “you are a writer!”

  5. Gracious, my palms were sweaty and my stomach was in knots throughout the entire post. I was nervous for you. (Or maybe it was the 2nd cup of coffee.)
    Congrats, K8! What we say here matters not – the fact that you stepped outside of your comfort zone to share your work with a live audience is fantastic! Great job!

    • Thank you, Lenore – I always appreciate your comments because they are always so thoughtful, articulate and sincere. I am glad I made you nervous for me (but then, you’re right, it could have been the coffee, I guess). I don’t know why I was so very nervous, but I was. I think I was really afraid that my husband, who is always so supportive, would listen to my work and say incredulously “that’s what you’ve been working on?” I should have known that he would love it, no matter what. But it was nice to hear praise from people who don’t love me (and don’t have to try to spare my feelings or aren’t trying to get me into bed). Oh, wait, TMI.

  6. Wonderful, wonderful. You are a great writer indeed, just to put yourself out there. I have read in public a couple of time – cotton mouth so bad the inside of my cheeks stick to my teeth. But the applause. Oh god, is there anything better? No wonder actors are so conceited!

    • I wish I had remembered to savor the applause. I was just so grateful no one booed or there was not an uncomfortable, polite silence. If I had cotton mouth, I don’t remember, but I had sweated so much at that point I am sure there wasn’t much saliva left. It truly was miserably hot

  7. Congratulations on such a successful night! I’m glad you did it!

    • I am so glad I did it, too. My goal was to move out of both my “closet” and my comfort zone. I certainly did both that night. I am hoping to align myself with the academic and professional writers living in the area who have founded the Writer’s group. They are very supportive and eager to mentor. Just what I need.

      I was so moved by your post yesterday – that is the power of the written word. thanks for sharing it.

  8. Kudos to you! I have to admit I had to force myself to savor your words, not because they’re not savor-worthy (quite the contrary!) but because I wanted to see how it all turned out. I kept the impulse in check and am glad I did.

    I nearly cried when I read about being a nurse and caring for my patients until their last breath.
    Even reading this sentence caused my eyes to fill with tears. I’ll forever be grateful to the hospice nurses who did what they could not only to ease my mom’s suffering, but also attend to each of her children’s suffering, as well.

    A couple hours before my mom died, my sister sent me a video of a hospice nurse accompanying a hospice harp player. My sister said she fled the room at the look of peace on my mom’s face; she knew the end was nigh. I’d laughed earlier at the thought of a harpist bringing anything significant to the table, but I should have known better by then. All those nurses? They knew what they were doing. They were a gift.

    So your words, oh! How they have touched me.

    • Thank you Deb for your thoughtful comments. You know what I always say? If I have moved someone to tears or made them snort something out of their nose with laughter – then my work is done. I am trying to decide if I like your posts or your comments more. Tough call.

  9. I’m so proud of you for reading your work in public–the equivalent of stripping only not nearly as sexy–well, maybe depending on what you wrote–and for not throwing up. You are my hero! 🙂

    • Lorna, Lorna, Lorna. Let’s just agree to have a mutual admiration society here – you are my hero because you are the one who is “really putting it out there” telling your story. The equivalent of stripping – now that is funny (but accurate!!).

  10. TheIdiotSpeaketh

    Good for you!

    on a side note….

    I got two words for you to ponder…. ponder these well….no need to thank me…

    (Whispers..)

    kidney water

    🙂 Enjoy!

  11. My sons are actors. My daughter a singer. They are all on stage a lot. I was on a stage with my son one time. My eyes could not see anything. There was only bright lights blinding me. I was disoriented, dizzy, and could barely stand up. The audience was laughing and applauding (he had husband and I as part of a skit-unwillingly on our part0. It was the most terrifying experience I have ever endured. I feel what you went through. I am so excited that it went well. You want more of it. That just shows you are made for it. The reading of your works-comparable to giving birth on stage.
    Me, on the other hand……I hope never to find myself on a stage…..ever.

    • I don’t know that I want more, but I want to be comfortable on the stage as I have agreed to act as emcee next month, and I am very excited about the Writer’s Group. Thanks for stopping in (again!!!)

  12. Are you a writer? Without a doubt! I was transfixed the entire post, I could feel every emotion. Congratulations to you for taking that giant leap. You are inspiring!

  13. Excellent! No tomatoes thrown, no human combustion. You are brave for putting yourself out there. I think there is a lot to be said about that.

  14. Lisa (Woman Wielding Words)

    I’m sorry I am responding to this so late (still dealing with internet challenges). I nearly cried reading this, when the audience member called out “You are a writer!” I echo that sentiment, YOU ARE A WRITER! I wish I had the courage you have. I know it wasn’t easy, but what an amazing experience. Maybe someday I will be able to follow in your footsteps, but for now I am just going to envy you for a little while. Bravo! Encore!

  15. Think of the gift you gave them that evening…wish I was there, K8!
    I had to read publicly a couple of years ago and went through the same thing. I’m very shy and like to be uber-prepared. I even asked the drama teacher at my son’s high school for help, and help she did. It can be so very hard. So very proud of you!!

  16. Ayyyy … you did it … Congrats ..!!!
    I agree with all of the feelings you were going through. I sweat like crazy when I’m nervous. I suffer from social anxiety; so for me, it would be a lot of hyperventilating.
    Ironically, when I was out there selling my jewelery (28years) I never had an ounce of anxiety. I suppose standing behind my display cases created a safe zone.
    Bravo on your courage …
    Isadora

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