Saturday, 9 August 2014

Nowhere to Hide


Sometimes I want to hide.

It all started when I was invited by a lovely fellow writer from the town where I live, to join other writers at her house. It would be a chance to listen to each others work. "Lovely," I hear you say and of course you would be right: evenings like this are lovely... unless you are me!

So what is the problem?

Well to start with, I don't particularly like groups. I love meeting up with two, three or even four people, and will often be the one to instigate such events, but more than that and the pleasure subsides and dread slips in. If I don't know anyone, then that is even worse.

I love writing and I love my work being read... in a magazine, in someone else's head, in the privacy of their own home. Reading my own work? That's a different matter.

Patsy Collins asked what it is that makes me so nervous at the thought of reading my work out and I found it easy to answer. Firstly, I can't get over the feeling that reading something you've written might be viewed as showing off - which of course is stupid, if you've been asked to do it. The main problem, though, is I'm not a limelight person, which is why I like to sing in an 80 strong choir and only ever dream of singing a solo; or why I love dancing in a sea of other dancers but if the spotlight fell on me... ooh er!

Also, I'm quite a perfectionist - if I can't do something to the best of my ability (sing, dance, write) then I'd rather not do it at all. If I read out my work and stutter, stumble and lose my place then, in my eyes, I've failed.

So what did I do last night? Well, I could easily have made an excuse and stayed at home but I didn't - I made myself go. Writing buddy Tracy Fells collected me from my house and when the time came, I didn't chicken out but volunteered to read second (better that waiting the whole evening getting more and more nervous).

And did I muck it up? Luckily no - after all I've had 20 years experience of reading to a class of children - but I think my tomato red face clashed with the walls!

Of course, it was a lovely evening, with an interesting variety of prose and poetry and some wonderful cakes. I could so easily have missed out.

If I'm asked again, I shall be happy to read something else and I know that each time it will be easier. By the time I have to do author readings in Waterstones it will be a doddle... but I might have to duck the flying pigs first :)





33 comments:

  1. Reading your own work is probably the most nerve wracking public speaking situation. There's the being the centre of attention aspect and the worry about what others might think of your story.

    It's nealy always fine when you actually do it though. Actually although I've heard lots of people read and done it myself fairly often, I can't think of a single time it went badly.

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    1. That's good to hear, Patsy. It wasn't as bad as I thought.

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  2. Hi Wendy, I am struggling to leave a comment on your blog, it could be the internet here where we are in France, but I just finished writing something and it has vanished. Grr! If it appears, do please delete this comment. I sympathise with your anxiety. I have done many, many readings/talks since my first book came out and still get nervous before one. I am probably, a bit like you, a bit of a perfectionist and don't want to let myself down, but I also don't want to let my reading audience down – if people have gone to the trouble of giving up their afternoon or evening to listen to me, I want to make they have an enjoyable time. Practice makes perfect for sure, and it does get easier, but for some of us readings will always be a tad anxious making. Maybe those nerves are what keep us on our toes for our readers?
    Looking forward to seeing those flying pigs ;)

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    1. Sorry you had so much trouble leaving your comment, Marianne - thank you for your persistence! We are very hard on ourselves, aren't we and as you say, I'm sure it will get easier with practice.

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  3. I seem to get more nervous the more experienced I become. But I find that that nervousness propels towards a better performance. Yes, I'm hard on myself. With my writing also.

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  4. Oh, gosh, tell me about it! I do Creative Writing at university and it's compulsory to read your work aloud. Yuck!

    Still, at least you got to hear some beautiful and eat some cakes. I find it's never as bad as we fear it might be, but it's the fear of failing that keeps us from being confident in our work. Kind of sad, really, but I think it goes away with experience (at least, I hope so!).

    Maggie: The Writers' Magazine

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    1. Eating cake makes everything seem better, doesn't it!

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  5. Glad you didn't chicken out, Wendy. I'm sure you'll get used to it.

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    1. I say no too often, Keith - I'm making a point of saying yes more.

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    2. I'm quite happy reading to my small writing group but am put off entering competitions where I would have to travel to read to an audience. That's one of the reasons I don't push myself as I would hate to have to do the whole promotional thing, even on the internet. But who am I kidding that I would be good enough anyway. I draw, bake and have just learnt to crochet, and think I prefer to be a jack of all trades. Sadly, a master of none. Love your post.

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    3. Isn't it a shame when the 'promotional thing' gets in the way of what we really enjoy - writing. I actually enjoy interacting and online... it's real life that's scary!

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  6. The first time I read out at a writers' meeting I had to undo my skirt because I couldn't breathe. It gets easier. You might end up like me. I give talks, lead workshops and it's getting difficult to shut me up. Forget nerves and go ENJOY!

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    1. 'Give talks.... Lead workshops' I'm going to have to have a lie down.

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  7. Glad you enjoyed the experience in the end, Wendy. I don't like reading my own work out but have no problem reading anything else or giving a talk to an audience - the thought of it and corresponding nerves are worse before the actual event!

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    1. My heart was skittering like anything!

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  8. Glad you enjoyed it (in the end), Wendy. To be honest I just go for the cakes! And not sure about flying pigs but there'll definitely be a Literary Pig at your Waterstones author reading!

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  9. I won a prize once and was asked to read part of the story at the prize giving. I was expecting a thunderbolt to hit the hotel and save me, but no such luck. I was wearing my best pin-striped trouser suit specially. I did it though! Hooray, I thought. Once I sat back down and stopped shaking, I realised that the stripes on my trousers had disappeared. Yes, so frightened I'd put on the wrong non-matching trousers.

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    1. What a wonderful story. I once went to school ( as a teacher) in one brown boot and one black!

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  10. I'm so pleased for you, Wendy.

    I've turned down opportunities to read my stories - and also failed to turn up to hear them read by someone else - but always wished afterwards that I'd tried. So I'm especially heartened (should I ever be offered the chance again) to know that you stepped into the spotlight and survived. Fabulous news. x

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    1. It's surprising how many writers feel the same, Joanna.

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  11. Sorry Wendy, my comment above should have appeared here!

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  12. Enjoyed your post and glad you didn't chicken out. I've not read my work very often and agree it's terrifying but I've also found it an exhilarating experience. Plus I also sing in a large choir but can't even pluck up the courage to sing alone in the shower!

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    1. I am so envious of those people who can be centre stage and not mind. The silly thing is, that I'm not bad at it - I need to just remember that, when I am stressing about it beforehand!

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  13. Well done for seeing it through, Wendy. It reminded me of my feelings as I drove to the first Twilight INSET I was delivering to a whole school staff. I'd just left the classroom to become a Teacher Adviser and kept thinking 'Why am I putting myself through this?' It gets easier! ;-)

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    1. Years ago when I was working for a wildlife trust, I had to give a presentation to 90 head teachers... it took several hours for the nervous rash on my face and neck to die down!

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  14. Well done Wendy. That's what I hated most about a writing group I used to go to. Trying to keep the nerves out of your voice is the hardest part.....

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  15. Well done Wendy. I bet you feel great that you did it - and had a lovely time and cake afterwards too! However nervous you are it's an achievement when you go through with it and sometimes you feel worse if you chicken out. I'm sure with experience it gets easier :-) xx

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  16. It does get easier... :-) Glad to hear it went well.

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