I try to be an active member of the arts community. On a semi-regular basis, I leave my house, and I go to events around Wollongong to hear live poetry and fiction being performed by slightly more active members of the arts community.
But in January of 2017, I finally stepped out of the comfort zone of being an audience member, and shared my writing publicly to a room of mostly strangers.
Franks Wild Years, a second-hand record shop and live venue in Thirroul, hosts weekly ‘Wednesdays at Franks’ events for music, poetry, stories, and live drawing. At their inaugural ‘A Night of Stories’, after listening to people read travel stories, original free prose, bush tales, and stories near and dear to the readers’ hearts, I stood up at the front of the small room to perform last. I balanced on a tall stool and read aloud from my laptop balanced on my knee.
I expected to be nervous. I was. I expected my voice to crack. It did, a little. But it hadn’t occurred to me that I would actually enjoy performing my work.
The small room received my voice without echo, and after a minute of finding my sound, I settled into the rhythm of my story. In the lack of any sound other than what I made, I could see there were many pairs of eyes on me, but I felt that they were patient and interested, not expectant.
In the years since university workshopping classes, I had forgotten what it felt like to be able to experience real-time reactions to what I create. I could hear the quiet nose-laughs when I read a sly joke, and the audible chuckles during humorous dialogue. There were slight gasps and hissing sounds when the story took a dark turn, and upon reading the final line, there was a collective murmur of “whoah”.
My story – The Deep End – is not a classic piece of literature for the ages, but it is one of my best pieces of fiction so far, and certainly one that I have spent the most time on. It was pleasantly gratifying to see/feel/hear it be received in the way that I wanted to present it.
Writing can be isolating, and until enough people read and hear your story, one of the most nerve-wracking thoughts you can have throughout the entire process is will they get it? Is this good enough? People who write for themselves don’t care if every person who reads it understands it, or sees every layer that they wrote.
But I write because I want to share stories with people; I want to make connections. And at Franks Wild Years, I did.