Recently, I read my work in progress out loud to an audience. It was terrifying. I’ve given presentations, run seminars and read out loud before. But not my own work. Reading it out, volunteering to read it out, is saying ‘I think this is worth listening to’. And that’s opening the door to rejection. Who wants rejection? Who wants rejection of something that is so close to yourself and that you really really want people to like?
I did this because it is something you are meant to do if you want to be taken seriously as a writer. So that’s worse. I’m standing up in front of a bunch of people who love and know about writing and saying: ‘take me seriously as one of those people you study and admire’.
All I could think as I waited for it to be my turn was, why have I agreed to do this? And why did I change the font of my manuscript from Arial to Times New Roman just before printing a copy to read? Times New Roman is tiny and I’m short sighted. When I last went to the optician complaining about my eyesight he kindly informed me that, considering the state of my eyes, I was lucky I could see as well as I could. Err, thanks?
There was one other thing that worried me and that was my lack of sequins. I read this article on public readings. I’m sure it said lots of really helpful things but the key points I remember were don’t drink alcohol and wear sequins. I don’t have anything with sequins. I’m not a sequins kind of gal. I felt naked. So I had a drink. To be honest I did mind less about the sequins after that.
I’d bagged myself a slot in the middle of the first half of the series of readings. The day before I’d been to watch my son in his school Christmas play. He was one of any three children in his class to have a line to say. It was: ‘Three Wise Men entered the stable and laid their gifts before the baby’. I remember. I will probably remember it til I die now (that and the der-der der-der from Suzanne Vega’s Tom’s Diner). The point is that anything about the wise men is right near the end. There are donkeys, stables, babies born, angels and shepherds that all come before that bit. So there was the longest of waits until he got to say his line, until we would know whether he had remembered it and was able to speak slowly and clearly and I would able to restrain myself from leaping up and saying it with him. The tension was terrible. I couldn’t go through that twice in as many days.
So, my time came and I did it. I read the Prologue to my novel. Apparently some people laughed, not just my friends. (Just to be clear, it is supposed to be funny.) I lived. And then I drank. And I didn’t need sequins. Maybe next time though. What if there was no drink?