I have an audio blog at soundcloud.com/cmmounts
When I told friends that I would produce this audio blog, this podcast, a lot of people got excited. I have posted my written work on my blog for over two years, but I never recorded any of it. It seems we are in the midst of yet another generation gap. I am generalizing here so please forgive me, but my older friends prefer to read my blog while my younger friends have asked for a podcast. They say they don’t have time to read it, but they can listen on the commute.
So, here I am.
In March 2018, I had my first official poetry reading. I say official because I have read at my writers’ group meetings and events for years but was never included in a show as a featured writer before. The truth is, I never actually tried to get a show. I asked a friend to record my performance and I posted the two rough videos that came out of that on Facebook to many positive comments.
That night, I made a decision to record my writing. I sought out help but then life happened as it does. I got lost in a software implementation at work. I found out my mom had terminal blood cancer. I felt very lost, didn’t know how to move forward. I languished. The best I could do was just keep my head down and keep writing…
I know that my strongest skills are public speaking and writing, probably in that order. Public speaking comes naturally to me. As a small child, I would talk to anyone. In grade school, I excelled in declamations, which is an artistic form of public speaking. And in high school, I fell in love with theater. But the hard realities of life derailed me for many, many years.
Around age 30, I was lucky enough to find my writing mentor Susan who finally helped me to recognize and accept that yes, I am a writer and yes, it is OK to be a writer. And from then on, I was on fire with the written word. But I never shared any of it outside of reading at my writers’ group. People told me I was a good reader, but I didn’t pursue it. As dumb as it sounds, I didn’t really know how.
Around age 40, I was asked to give presentations at software conferences for my job. And it was here that my public speaking skills surfaced. People told me I was an excellent software trainer. But being asked to present at regional and national conferences really boosted my confidence. I remembered how much I enjoyed it.
In 2014, a friend and fellow writer urged me to attend the poetry open mics around Minneapolis. Once again that damn sense of not belonging, not being part of the group, not being a ‘real poet’ stopped me from attending.
Oh lord, who cares! It’s an open mic! Anyone could stand up there and read the phone book and would be allowed to do so provided they could actually find one these days. Maybe a dictionary would suffice. But really. Why did I think I needed permission and who was I going to get it from if not myself?
I went to those open mics. And eventually, I was asked to read at a show. And I got the fire to record and post my work. It’s weird, I know. The psychology we must overcome sometimes…
As a new year resolution, I decided to figure out how to record and where to post it. I needed help. Who could I ask? As dumb as it sounds, it didn’t occur to me that I work for what is essentially the AV department. The software I support, supports a group of audio and sound engineers. I have coffee with the senior engineer almost every morning.
What the hell is wrong with me that I am always so blind to the forest for the trees in front of me?!? I asked him in February for a recommendation on a home podcasting studio and he provided one- both the equipment to buy and the software to use. And another friend whose education is in media production helped me to set it all up and work with the software.
So, I printed out my poems and organized them as if I were organizing a book. I decided on themes and order, what was in and what was out, and I came up with five collections of related work. I was ready. The computer was on, the microphone was set, and the mouse hovered over the record button.
And full stop. What is this I am feeling?!?
I can speak in front of a room full of hundreds of people. I know I can because I’ve done it. But speaking to this silver device with its blue light… why should this cause me stage fright? Why should I now be imprisoned by an anxiety attack? I paced my home. I shut off the microphone. I couldn’t record anything…
Here’s what I know: some people fear public speaking more than death. Everyone gets nervous, even me. But what I do with the anxiety of public speaking is transform it into performance. The more nervous I feel, the bigger the ham I become. I need an audience to perform to. I am a conduit and I need the receptacle of another person to focus this intense energy I pump out whenever I read my writing. I need the connection. I need their response, good or otherwise.
Performing to a steel microphone is like performing to a dead room. It’s like telling a joke and have it bomb, like having nothing but the crickets singing when you thought you were so clever. So, when I tried to record my poems my anxiety stayed put. There was no place for it to go and suddenly I was frozen, unable to speak my words, terrified of the consequences of having a permanent record of my public performance.
I figured this all out when my friend helped me test my equipment. I didn’t have trouble reading when she was here, only after she left, and I was alone. I was assured that I don’t have to post anything unless I want to. I don’t have to post a recording until I am ready. But given this anxiety, when am I ever going to be ready?
So, here I am meeting my self-imposed deadline of the first weekend in May. I am good at that, having this weekly deadline for my written blog posts. I just now have to force myself to also create the podcast. I am posting the recordings of my essays first, not my poems. They feel less threatening. I will share my opinion freely… but the poems are more like art, more tender, more vulnerable. I practice with them and they will come. But for now, this is what you get.
It has been such a delight after all these years to finally have the courage to share my written words on my blog… I am excited to finally start the second half of this journey… the performance…
I hope you enjoy it.
-Copyright C.M.Mounts, May 2019