Thursday, August 11, 2016

Open mic fright

So. I nearly didn't go. When nature serves up the perfect-storm of miserable weather on a weary week night, as it did last night, it's hard not to see that as the perfect excuse for staying at home in the warm welcome house, rather than going out into the cold cruel night, much less for going out to deliver your first open mic performance, something most people say they'd rather face a firing squad than do.

And I understand, at least with that, it's over with quickly. At least with a firing squad you don't have to say anything, unless you want to and, by all accounts, people don't. 'Just shoot me,' they might say, but don't have to; it's implied, which makes things a whole lot easier.

Not so in front of an open mic. Nothing's implied with an open mic, other than that the person taking the microphone has something to say and can say it, the hardest of all things to prove in public, or so it seems to me; I've made as many excuses for not taking the open mic as anyone.

I've spoken in public before, sure, most recently for the launches of my book, but those events were prearranged at least partly by others and couldn't be got out of without disappointing them. But this open mic session was all on me, nobody but me (and Moose) would be let down if I didn't show up, nobody would even know, indeed. There's always next month, and the one after that and the one after that...

But, as I eventually decided last night, I'm getting too old for giving into fear and putting things off. There's no surer firing squad than biology, after all, and my body and brain are increasingly conspiring together to make sure I know it.

So last night I did go out into the cruel cold, though complaining (to Moose) all the way, and thinking about turning back when the traffic was heavy, when we couldn't find a park, when we couldn't find the pub-cafe location, when there weren't many people there when we did find it, when it looked nothing like I'd imagined it to look, etc, etc. But the host was welcoming and there was another novice there who she introduced me to and so I stayed, and put my name down to speak fourth.

And, after another forty minutes of anxious waiting, I heard my name called, stood up, walked to the front of the room, opened my book, took a deep breath, and began to speak into the mic to a now full house, reading the prologue and part of the first chapter of my book, embarrassed not to be speaking from memory, as the other, more experienced poets and writers who presented their work before me had done. But getting a fair few laughs nonetheless, I gained in confidence and was able to leave the page at times and address the audience directly. They appreciated that and applauded generously.

Indeed it went very well altogether, much better than expected, and afterwards I felt a relief and warmth you can't get from staying in by the fire. And that's the difference between a firing squad and an open mic, the before might be similar, but the after is completely different. With the open mic there is an after, for starters, and even if you fall flat on your face as if having been shot, there's surely the relief of knowing that you can get back up, and in due course, learning from what went wrong, have another go, likely being less nervous the next time.

Whether my open mic talk sold any books, which was kind of the idea, is another matter. It probably didn't, but there's more to life than money. As they say, you can't take it with you when you fall flat and final, whatever takes you down.



  1. At least one Kindle version of your book was sold. Not sure how much that will give to the coffers. At least this novice is very keen to read it after such an amazing delivery. I think you can move from novice to at least intermediate if not beyond.

    1. Cheers, Katherine, I appreciate the vote of confidence, never mind the coffers. Hope the Kindle version delivers.

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