Let my just ‘fess up right now – I’m still flying from Tuesday night! The evening was exhilarating and full of good talk, good stories and poetry, and good food and drink, and you can read all about it here if you’re so inclined.
Many years ago I read that Marilyn Monroe used to throw up before she went on camera. Imagine that – she was that nervous, and yet she went on acting. I wasn’t tossing my cookies, but my nerves were acting up on Tuesday morning. My hands were so sweaty it was hard to hold my coffee cup – that’s serious! I had a shower, and I had to have a second one before we left for Sudbury because I was soaked with sweat just from sheer nervous anticipation.
David’s response was practical. “Well, since you’re sweaty anyway, why don’t you go bring in the things from the car that we won’t need for the trip? And put in the boxes we’re taking for Jan.” Jan is Laurence’s wife, and she’s been deeply involved in cat rescue for years. She has a little store called Small Things, the main purpose of which is finding homes for cats. We had some cat toys and scratching posts left from the store, and figured she might as well have them.
If I was going to sweat anyway, I might as well have something to show for it, even if it was only boxes in the car.
I calmed down on the trip. It helped to have a stop at Carey’s Bookstore, a favourite of ours. Once we were actually at the Gallery, I went from serious nerves to simple jitters – getting into my reading clothes, remembering to have a pen on me, like that. Those continued – although I was distracted by conversation and the reading of the other authors – until it was my turn at the mike.
The way the nerves disappear once I’m up there, in front of the audience, is always a wonderful surprise. Emotional states have a way of grabbing onto you and making you think it will always be like this. When you’re happy, or in love, it’s wonderful. When you’re depressed, or nervous, it’s horrible. The end of nervousness always catches me. “Oh! Where’d the nerves go?” But they’re gone.
I’m not afraid of speaking in front of people; in fact, I love it. It’s only the anticipation that gets me, the fear – no matter how well I’ve prepared – that I’m not prepared.
I’ve talked about this with other writers and performers, including Mark Dunn and Alanna Bondar, both of whom were there on Tuesday. We all suffer from nerves ahead of time. What both Mark and Alanna said, and I’m beginning to realize, is that the nerves are necessary to a good performance. If you don’t have them, you’re not going to have that edge that makes the best reading. Intuitively, this makes sense to me.
I still don’t think I’ll be able to enjoy the nerves. David refers to them as my “pre-show jitters”, and he seems to know how they’ll go better than I do. (Well, duh! He’s outside watching, not inside going nuts!) Looks like I’m going to have to embrace the nerves, and just be grateful I’m not throwing up.