Oh man, am I ever pumped right now. It’s 11:00pm and I’ve just returned home from the ‘FILTH’ issue reading (Windsor Review) at Phog Lounge. One of my short stories was published in this issue (Yay! Not a rejection!) so I was invited to read as well as Kate Hargreaves, Peter Hrastovic and Sir John Wing Jr.
I shared the stage with JOHN WING JR. GAH!!! The man is hysterical and brilliant and poignant and…hysterical! He sang a song about Canadian Beaver (I’m a proud owner) and tattoos on penises. He’s an outright wordmaster and lyrical genius. It was an honour to hear him read. A real honour.
What I loved most about his reading and his writing is the courage that seeped through it all. It takes balls to write a song about tattooing one’s penis. It takes balls to write about standing up to a parent, being a parent, and ageing – however gracefully the reality might be for you.
Here’s the truth:
I get nervous at readings. Every time. Especially when I’m in the company of such distinguished writers like Mr. Wing Jr.. (I often don’t include myself as in the ‘distinquished’ list – I’m working on changing that…)
I didn’t read the short story that was published in the WR because it was too erotic. Yeah, I said erotic. I’ve been writing erotica for years. This is my first story that’s been published in a literary magazine. I don’t know where it comes from or how or why, and this doesn’t really matter. The point is it’s a well in me that’s always overflowing. I can write erotica with ease but I can’t get up in front of a crowd of people (whether I know them or not) and read it.
I’m shy. It’s true. My memoir, Laughing Through A Second Pregnancy, has a section dedicated to my vagina. I had no problem writing it. Like, at all. But ask me how many times I’ve read from it and I can’t even fill one hand of fingers.
This evening, I read second in a line of four, with four being Mr.Wing Jr.. After everyone had read. After John had made me laugh so hard I cried. After he uttered with complete enthusiasm words like ‘fuck’ and ‘vagina’ and other words of that nature – then I felt it. Courage. Bubbling inside me. I was ready to get up there, step up to the spitty mic and read my ‘Balls’ poem. Read my sexy story. Did I? Did I?
Negative. I did not. The reading was over. So I wrote instead.
Poetry On Demand was, well, on demand. I wrote four very sexy, very vulgar poems. And the people I wrote them for read them out loud. They said the words. With courage. It was wonderful.
It follows that this truth exhibits a part of my ‘creative process’ that extends into the sharing of my words. I can write things I’m not necessarily brave enough to say out loud, but if I get warmed up and others around me are sharing and being brave, then I may just grow the balls to read my sexier stuff.
And if not, that’s okay too. It sure feels good to write it. And know that people are reading it.
I was going to write about something different today. Before I went to the reading. I was going to write about my relationship with writing and being paid to do it. Alas, at the core, the truths come from the same place within me:
So much of what I am able to do in my writing life is directly related to my self worth. For some reason, I don’t feel strong enough or have the guts or self respect for my talent as a writer to do certain things – like read ANY AND ALL of my writing no matter what the genre…like GET PAID (and ask for payment) without feeling guilty or not good enough for the writing/teaching that people WANT to pay me to do.
I believe that learning to…that choosing to build up and sustain a positive self worth is one of my life’s greatest lessons. I’m working on it every day.
I’ll admit there’s a safety on the page, nestled in the white space between the letters…the words…the meanings. I’m strong there. I’m worth it. I’m some of my best ‘me’…
But off the page, among the voices…I’m still working on feeling brave enough.
It’s funny because when I told my friends that I couldn’t read the sexy bits because I was too shy, they laughed and said I can talk about anything. I can write about anything. Shy? Pashaw. They’re right, but up there on the stage…in the centre…I’m shy. My confidence splits and rips like the torn carpet that covers the planks of the stage.
One stage at a time, right?
I’ll tell ya one thing – the more I do it, the more I watch and learn from others who grace the stages before me – the more my courage strengthens and sticks.
Thanks, John Wing Jr. for showing me how it’s done. And Peter and Kate – thank you too. We’re writers. It’s who we are. It’s what we do. Reading our words is part of the process. We can do it!
One day I’ll bring my sexy words out. One day….