Today I’m feeling anxious. I expected to feel anxious. Although I wouldn’t necessarily have pinpointed today as the day for it, I knew it was coming this week.
I have a reading on Friday in Sudbury. I’ll be one of two authors billed for this event – the other being songwriter and poet Mark Dunn. I’m anxious about this event on several counts.
Silly as it may sound, I’m anxious about what to wear. I have several nice outfits, but I need to do a couple of things like buy some nylons, the short ones to wear under pants or long skirts, and decide what to do with my hair, and whether or not to wear lipstick. I haven’t worn makeup for thirty-some years, and a year or so ago my friend Angie coaxed me into putting on lipstick. She said it looked good on me, and actually gave me the lipstick in question. Other people remarked on how nice it looked. This was astonishing to me, because I feel like a clown in makeup. But does how I feel about it matter? I’m performing, and clearly the audience likes lipstick.
Perhaps some of you would say, “They’re not there to look at you, Elizabeth, they’re there to hear you read.” Maybe you’d think this would help the anxiety, but you’d be wrong. See, I have thirty minutes all to myself up there in front of a bunch of literary-type people, and I write short things. This means I’ll be reading several pieces.
Obviously I’m going to open and close with something from “Shepherd in Residence”, because Laurence has arranged this in part as a way for Mark and me to do a little pre-release promotion for our books. In between, however, I figure I’ll have room for two pieces. I want to read something from “The Swan Harp”, and I want to read a free-standing story. But what from “The Swan Harp”, and which story? Should I go funny, or serious? Fantasy, science-fiction, horror? Something published, or something new? And for that matter, what should I read from “Shepherd”?
Those of you who know me well, and who know what an attention hog I am, might be surprised that I’m anxious at all about performing. I’ve done it for years, right? Radio, craft shows, retail – it’s all performing, being “on” for the audience. I’ve even done Open Mike nights. I’ve MC’d for Stories in the North.
My guilty little secret is that, yes, I do get the butterflies in the stomach, the fear that I’ll forget my lines or lose my place, or stumble, or do something horrible and socially unacceptable. My chest might get tight and make my voice squeak – that happened the very first time I was recorded for radio. On radio you can re-record – there are no do-overs in live performance.
I know that in the end I’ll do a good reading. If I make a mistake probably nobody will know but me. For now, however, for the next few hours, the butterflies have me.