Wednesday night I stepped out of my comfort zone and finally took a chance. I found out six days previous of a monthly event here in Tulsa called the OK So Story Slam held at Enso downtown. The idea is that you have five minutes to tell a true story from memory (no reading) on an announced theme. They let you know well in advance what the theme is (next month it's crazy, this month it was love/lust) so that you can prepare, the idea being that you will be surrounded by like minded people who enjoy telling and listening to what the storytellers have to say. Hopefully.
I guess you could say I've been moving in this direction for a long time. Right before I got out of the Army in 1995 I became very interested in spoken word poetry. Regular poetry with it's rules and rhyming schemes was something that never interested me but spoken word was very intriguing. Henry Rollins opened that door for me and I wanted to, no, I felt the need to do it but never could bring myself to take that leap. After all, the idea of standing in front of a room full of strangers and baring your soul can be quite a nerve wracking thought. Several times I had shown my poetry to people and they had liked it but had commented that they felt like it needed to be heard in my voice more than it needed to be read. Still, I did nothing.
For me the line between doing spoken word and telling a story can be very thin indeed. It's all in the same realm though there are differences to be sure. So why did it take me so long to do it? Some of my old confidence problems are at the root of it although having read Steven Pressfield's "The War Of Art" it has also introduced me to the concept of how we create resistance and make it a real viable thing. Not only is there a fear of failure but also one of success. I cannot recommend his books enough and feel like I need to read them again to get a different perspective now that I've actually done something.
The question you may be asking is how did it go? It was frightening and scary and terrifying right up until the time I heard my name announced and then I calmly walked up the stairs, stood in front of the microphone, looked into the crowd and told my story. Every doubt, every fear, every negative reason I ever conjured up against doing something like this disappeared as I told my story. Through the rest of the evening I had several people tell me that they really liked my story and one of the organizers even came to talk to me and tell me how much she liked it especially since it was the first time I'd ever done something like this.
Sure, I've given speeches and I've taught both children and adults before in various settings but this was by far a much more personal experience. This was me standing in front of a room full of strangers sharing a piece of myself. The difficult thing for me though would be going person to person or even table to table and speak with those strangers. I am not a very social person nor am I comfortable in social settings. That night I sat by myself at the back of the room only interacting when somebody else spoke to me first. Perhaps that will change as I do this more. Yes that does mean I will do it again. How could I not after getting such an incredible ego boost? It feels like it's something that I need to do, like it fits me and more of that kind of feeling could only be a good thing.
One last note, I didn't win but that was never my goal. To paraphrase a sports cliche it was about me getting out of the stands and getting into the game. Sure winning would have been nice but it wasn't necessary. The most important thing for me was to just do it and my reward was the reaction I saw and heard during my story and after I finished. It made it all worthwhile and made me happy. Unfortunately while I thought I had recorded it on my portable recorder I must not have hit the button correctly. I would have liked playing it on my podcast. I'll have to record myself telling it again and put it up although I really wish I had audio from that night because it's just not the same. This is all so new to me so maybe next time I'll get it right. Maybe next time.
Written and Published by Don Leach.
May not be used without permission from the author.