Yes, I just quoted Homer Simpson. Or, I guess you could say I made a pun melding Homer Simpson’s catchphrase and The Sound of Music. Apparently that’s what happens when I have performance anxiety. As to why a witty, intelligent writerly type such as myself might suffer from performance anxiety, the reasons are threefold:
1. I’m expected to perform. In this case, I’ll be reading a passage from Scourge of the Righteous Haddock in conjunction with 100 Thousand Poets for Change on Sept. 28 at 4 p.m. at the Steynberg Gallery in San Luis Obispo. No, I’m not technically a poet. But I am a writer who believes that words and literature can help enact social change. Also, the poets promised not to make fun of me for not being properly one of them. And no, I’ve never done a reading before. I don’t make a habit of reading aloud. So there’s not a lot of experience I can draw on here to ensure that my reading is successful.
2. I don’t like being the center of attention, particularly when there is a camera, stage, or microphone involved. And I have been given to understand there will be either a microphone or stage, possibly both. And hell, possibly someone with a camera as well, now that I think about it.
3. A clown once mauled me with a chainsaw while I was onstage performing Evolution Pollution.
4. Number 3 is a lie, and I also lied about the number of reasons I was going to give.
5. Participating in school plays with titles like Evolution Pollution at the Christian schools I attended as a child probably have something to do with my performance anxiety. I mean, where is there to go after playing a mama gorilla in a show that reasons that gorillas are happy in the jungle, therefore evolution is a lie? The only way to top that kind of script is to vomit all over a copy of The Fountainhead and attempt to read both the vomit and Ayn Rand’s words at the same time.
If you’re getting kind of tired of my whining and are thinking “well, you’re an adult and if you don’t want to do it, then why did you agree” the answer is complicated. And requires more numbers.
1. It’s not that I don’t want to do it. I’m just nervous, and when I’m nervous, I crack wise. Some people consider this endearing (I hope) and most probably wish I’d just shut the hell up.
2. It’s in the title. Poets for Change. Again, not a poet, but I am a writer and a diehard idealist. I want this perfect world in which skin color, sexuality, and gender don’t matter (at least not in a negative way); animals are treated with care and respect; we care more about our environment than our bank accounts; seriously, I’m going to stop because I could go on forever. And if I did go on forever, I’d probably touch on student debt, the inequitable distribution of wealth, literacy rates, and on and on and on. So I’m very down with the whole change part of their message.
3. I wrote and self-published a book I believe in. You have to market where and when you can and an event at which I get to read from my book for like-minded people seems like a marketing home run.
4. I’m 29 and I’m finally starting to understand that the events and adventures that make me the most uncomfortable are sometimes the most necessary to my personal growth. At some point, I’d like to be a successful author who regularly tours bookstores with my work, and I’m guessing that cartwheeling around the store is not going to sufficiently entertain people. Mostly because I can’t do a single cartwheel without falling down. Being comfortable speaking in front of an audience is an important skill.
5. The other writers who will be speaking are mad cool (yeah, this is how I talk when I’m nervous) and I want to be one of the cool kids for once.