I am most definitely feeling the fear. In approximately four weeks I will be reading at Ilkley Literature Festival. Even that statement sends me into a spiral of anxiety and finger gnawing. I used to be a really confident public speaker. In previous incarnations I worked at Bristol Zoo and gave the daily keeper talks in the giant tortoise section (complete with comic timing humping from the tortoises, never work with children or animals.) I absolutely loved charging around the zoo with a Britney microphone strapped to my head. It was marvellous.
This, however, feels different. It’s not just fun facts about Aldabran Tortoises (though they are very fun), this is personal. There is the crippling fear that I will either read it rubbishly or I will see someone grimace in horror at the crapness of my writing. Or both. At least if people read it in their own time, they can grimace away and I’m completely unawares. I prefer it that way. The only person I physically read my stories to is my husband and he would smile, nod and say it was wonderful even if I were reading the back of a cereal packet.
These fears are further compounded by a terrible experience I had of public speaking during my gap year. I won’t go into details but by the end of it I never wanted to speak publicly again. I did, but the next time I spoke my knees were actually knocking together with fear. Seriously, I could hear them clanging away and the whole audience was staring at my face so as not to have to acknowledge my wobbling legs. Half way through I took to leaning on a pillar but even that didn’t stop them. It was mortifying. Since then I’ve not avoided public speaking (where it is absolutely necessary) but I’ve hardly sought it out.
One thing I know is that I need to get back to the confidence of my zoo days and that public speaking is not only an important skill but one I know I have been good at before, so in theory I could be good at it again. It’s either that or I convince the event organisers that an Ebola-like virus has broken out in Oxford and the whole city has been quarantined so I can’t possibly travel… No, I will be brave and roar like a lion (see previous post…) RAAAAR! (but perhaps not during the reading, that is unlikely to help matters…)
P.S. If you would like to come and smile encouragingly at me while my knees knock together (and listen to many wonderful young writers) then all the info is here.