Open mic night
But I’m scared. How to rid myself of the fear? Do I first need to understand what it is that I’m afraid of?
I don’t bother. I just start with the worst possible scenario – a room full of people, and me with a story to read. It’s a StorySLAM:Live event at the Southbank Centre. The theme is ‘Revolutions’. I write a short story taken from one of the main turning points in my novel, where it deviates from the Lysistrata theme, into an exploration of sexual freedom (rather than sexual strikedom). My ‘revolution’ will be a sexual revolution.
I don’t realise, until I get there, that the five minute brief is not a guideline. There is a stop clock on the screen to the side of the mic. If I’m chosen to read, I’ll stand there in that spotlight. And I’d better read fast. I already know my story is closer to six minutes.
I am chosen to read. My voice shakes for the full five minutes (and some seconds. Yes, I did run over…) but I get through it. And when I’m done, I listen to the feedback from the panel of judges (Yes, there were judges…) and it’s an incredible experience. One of the judges recognises the Lysistrata theme. (I take this as a positive.) Another judge has questions, for example, why don’t the women just go home if they miss their men? (This is answered in the novel, but how to say so much in five minutes? Am I trying to say too much for a short story?) The last judge says he likes stories that leave more questions than answers, and that I’m brave for tackling ideas of sexuality, gender and power.
It’s exactly my (character’s) take on those ideas that I’ve been scared of sharing. I don’t feel brave. I feel as though I’ve just ‘flashed’ the entire world. But it’s alright.
There is my answer.
The fear just is. Stand up and read anyway.