I’ll be doing my first reading this Saturday, and I feel on the precipice. I could either fail and eat it, or I could do well. I’ve been pretty grumpy this whole week as a result of this preoccupation. I have gone shopping to look for the perfect outfit. At first I wanted something whimsical and original, and could not find it. So I have settled for simple and what looks and feels good. I went to see Jessi Klein earlier this year, and I liked what she wore. An unassuming cozy black sweater that I just felt like must’ve cost 10 million dollars. It’d be one of those sweaters in Oprah magazine. One of her favorite things. And you’d be like, Cool, I want that. And you’d look at the price tag and it’d be like $750!! Once I saw Michelle Tea on stage in boots, and I was so distracted by how nice those boots were. They did not look like cheap-ass boots you get from DSW. They looked like $1500 boots from Saks Fifth Avenue.
I notice what people wear onstage and how hard it must be to get it right. Once I saw Margaret Cho on stage and she said her pants were a little tight and then told us not to look at her camel toe. Despite being uncomfortable in her outfit, she was so funny and moving that night. She shook off her initial discomfort to radiate herself out into the audience. But then she’s a pro.
What I think I’m saying is that none of this matters in the way it currently does in my head. This will be one event of many at Litcrawl. I will be one among hundreds of people reading that night. I like that. I have friends who are coming to see me. Who are going out of their way, leaving their kids at home with their spouses, so that they can come see me. See, that puts pressure on me, like I should be some kind of pro. But I am never the pro, so none of them should expect that. Also, I have read wedding speeches without looking up my eyes from the page, and while other people in the room were not impressed, the wedding couple appreciated it because they knew that what I wrote was essentially a love letter to them on their day.
So, I guess that what I’m saying is that the thing I am most afraid of, what I assume every writer is afraid of, is writing something from the heart and having other people not like it. It’s not really about the outfit or the delivery or the stage presence that I’ve been obsessing about this week. These things help, and when someone has prepared to that point of knowing it backwards and forwards, I mean, wow. It’s a privilege to watch someone perform something that they have put so much time and effort and soul into. But if I don’t meet that bar, do I fail, do I lose?
These are the things I hope for myself when I read that night: 1. I hope I am not defensive in that “no one’s going to like it” kind of way. Questioning why I am even there. I am there. I will read. I will not fall into that womanly wanting of pleasing everyone. It matters to me. 2. Look at the people who are there: the writers from my classes who I have worked with these past few years, whose writing I have gotten to read, whose trajectories as writers are so amazing and humbling, who make me want to be a better writer, whose company I am so thankful to have — I have longed to be around a group of novelists pretty much all my life, and I am actually now in one. My friends who have told me they will show up, these are the people who saw me say, Hmm, maybe I want to be this, to I MUST BECOME A NOVELIST, to I think I’ll go be a teacher AND keep writing. My husband, my teacher, random person who didn’t know that there was going to be a reading at the bar that night who really wanted to watch the baseball game…And take it all in. Really authentically do that. 3. Feel the words that I am reading. 4. Enjoy the experience because why the fuck did I sign up to do this if not that? Enjoy the experience, even if I go down in flames, enjoy bombing if I do. (Who is the comedian who takes real pleasure in bombing?) 5. Support my classmates who have become friends who will be reading that night. Whose writings all impress me so much, no joke.
I have been making this all about me, but whenever I make things all about me, I get completely miserable. It’s just an excuse to party and do something I haven’t done in years, like a take a shot or something. I could sure use a party. Couldn’t we all?