The Spillers #2 Aftermath at the Crescent Ballroom
Last night was my first big public reading. I have read in public a couple times before. Once at an open mic night, and once back in college I read a piece that won a writing contest–so I wasn’t completely unprepared.
This was a whole different beast, though. I knew I’d stumbled blind into something more legit than I’d anticipated when they started handing out programs. With my name on them.
I was one of six writers chosen to read up there, and they were all pretty good. That’s big shift. An open mic night is just that: an open mic. Anyone can pop right up and read, you get what you get, so there’s the usual good, bad, and ugly fare. This time I was on stage with a handpicked group, and I was definitely the least accomplished of the group up there. Everybody else was working for literary magazines, or had lists of published work so long that Rob and Brian just gave two or three during their introductions and appended with, ” . . . and many others.”
Although I am grateful for Robert Hoekman’s, “I’ll vouch for him personally,” during my introduction, that’s when you know you’re the rookie; someone stands up and says, “Hey guys, the kid’s alright, let him take a swing.”
As might be expected from an event featuring some better-known and more accomplished writers, there were a lot of people there to watch.
Thankfully (or perhaps surprisingly), a few of them were there to support me, too!
So thanks to all of you for showing up and making me feel that support! Now, if you wanted to be there, and couldn’t, I do have an older version of the story I read, A Coin Toss in a Diner, narrated by myself on this site.
Nerves and Motivations
I know I’m supposed to talk about how nervous I felt, and how scary it was to stand up in front of all those people, but that would be a lie. I don’t get stage fright. Never have, and I’ve had enough public speaking experience to squash any lingering anxiety. We all have some things we’re just naturally comfortable with, and, for whatever reason, this is one of mine.
No nerves, no anxiety, just a nice jolt of adrenaline as I started reading in front of what looked like around one hundred people. It was very strange reading from a page though; everything I’ve done before was mostly spur-of-the-moment stuff, or something I’d planned out in general and trusted my mouth to figure out the particulars of.
I’m told it went well. I felt like my delivery could have been better, a little more measured, but it was a total blast! I can’t wait until next time!
The thing is, it would have been okay if it had gone terribly. It would have been okay if I’d completely flubbed it. I’m not up there to celebrate me or my writing, to shower it down upon the grateful adoring masses (and a good thing I’m not!) I’m up there to get better at reading my work in front of crowds. I’m up there because the Connor who’s okay at getting up on a stage and reciting his work is standing between me and the Connor who’s goddamned awesome at it–and the only way to fight through to that better Connor is to charge headlong through the mediocre one.
Overall I’m just hugely grateful to have had this opportunity to help make that happen.
I’m not doing it. Why? Well, I prioritize the writing I’m getting paid for, just for starters. There’s more to it, however.
For those who don’t know, NaNoWriMo is the name people have given to National Novel Writers/ing Month. Presumably because they didn’t feel like typing out National Novel Writing Month, which strikes me as a bad start, but whatever.
The goal is to write 50,000 words, which, by my calculations, should take the average typist about two eight hour days, if they don’t get hung up on the trivialities and just write. Let’s say two weekends of work, if you’re going to spend half your writing time not typing. What I’m saying is that writing a draft of a novella in a month is a pretty modest goal. It doesn’t need a month dedicated to it.
I’m not really participating. I’ve never really seen the point. Now, as soon-to-be-big-name-published and all-around amazing author Paul Mosier pointed out, NaNoWriMo (great, now I’m doing it) is a great way for people to motivate themselves. He, for example, used National Novel Writing Month, as the impetus to churn out his first novel, and, like I said, now he’s published! Seriously, you’re going to recognize his name pretty soon.
However, he’s also a great example of why I don’t think much of NaNoWriMo. You know what Paul did when he finished his first novel? I can tell you this: He didn’t wait for next November. Paul is a writing machine. Paul writes like it’s NaNoWriMo every single month, and, together with some natural talent and a lot of hard work, it’s taken him far, and fast.
For many people, though, it’s an excuse to try climbing a mountain, of sorts, fail, and then, instead of training and keeping at it, saying, “I’ll try that same mountain again next year, now back to the couch!” That’s not how you climb mountains. You condition yourself by trying to climb it as often as you can, by climbing smaller ones when the big ones aren’t available, and so on. Take a hint from the Cult of Done, and don’t worry about making a perfect draft.
The worst finished draft is better than the best draft you didn’t write.
So my advice to all you writers out there is this: By all means participate in NaNoWriMo this November. And then participate in it this December, January, February, April, June, and September, as well as March, May, July, August, and October.
Thanks for stopping by,