On Reading Aloud


I started this post before. And I talked so much about the process of writing that I surrendered it to what it was becoming and decided this would be a separate post just about reading things aloud. Because astonishingly, that has started to be a thing I find myself doing with increasingly frequency these days.

Before I wrote scripts for performances, before I wrote short stories, before I wrote the novella which I have, to my own joyous disbelief almost finished and which to even greater, more joyous disbelief I am almost happy with, I just wrote bits of well, stuff. The things I wrote didn’t have names or genres, they were just fragments of writing which let me work through the affective power and feeling quality I wanted to imbue my visual works with.

They were little homeless things which pleased me and which sometimes pleased people I showed them to when I was drunk enough or excited enough to relinquish them to reading by others. Intoxication was always part of the decision to let other people see my work: either gin or giddy exuberance.

I think I always knew that the shorter written works were inflected with speech, they carried the latent potential to be uttered in my own voice.

And I disowned that fact like a harrowing public fart because I find that, despite the dizzyingly levels of bilious unchecked narcissism innate to my being, I am very, very frightened of getting up in front of people and having them look at me while words I have written come out of my face.

Reading things in public is like deliberately enacting the contents of an anxiety dream in real time but without realising you are naked, having your teeth fall fall out or  having your old geography teacher who is also actually your dead nan riding a unicorn made of sausage rolls turn up.

But as well as being a stereotypical self-loathing, self-regarding narcissist, I am also a masochist and surprisingly brave for someone who is frightened of everything all the time. So I have been reading in public. And more than that I have taken up the challenge of writing new small works to read aloud at every single one of the IF events this August (except the one I can’t go to.)

Because I really do believe that doing things of which you are desperately afraid is incredibly enriching, especially when you know that the fear is irrational, especially when you know that giving in to that fear is stopping you from getting better at something you would actually enjoy becoming more proficient at.I feel like doing these little parachute jumps of the mind make you feel proud of yourself and enriched,and when you land you are thrilled to the bones of your wobbling jelly legs and desperate to experience the thrill of it again.

I have been so inspired by the incredible performers who are part of Team Effort! By Eilidh and Martin and Kim and Fergus and their profound capacity to get up on stage and act like they deserve to be there – which they do because they’re bloody mega stars,  By Stef and Debbie who probably don’t technically consider themselves performers but who get up and entertain and enchant and move people when the situation arises. I am also always really impressed by the way Gilly compères our events. She is warm and generous and witty and would never say she is a performer, yet gets up at every IF and makes everyone feel welcome and makes the crowd roar with laughter.

That’s the great thing about being surrounded by those people, they set the bar high and make you feel like you should be brave enough to jump at it. They set the bar high and treat you like you absolutely can jump at it and then it seems like it would be churlish and immature not to try.

So I am trying. I am writing things to read aloud. And I am reading them. These little unconventional meanders which are not very consequential but which are sincere and which I do work hard on in the short, short weeks between events. Hopefully they are a little bit funny, a little bit poetic and a little bit touching. Hopefully people don’t notice that my paper is shaking like a leaf in a gale. Hopefully people don’t think who is that scared little imposter doing things it doesn’t seem like she set out to do. Two IFs down. Two more to go. I’d better piss off and write something for this Saturday….



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