This August I joyfully and unexpectedly found myself at Swanwick Writers’ Summer School once more. I will say now how inspiring it was – the courses, the entertainment, the people - but that’s not today’s topic. This is my blog and I’ll moan if I want to! Amongst all the positives, there was a negative. A very personal one.
Like many writers, I’ve let self-doubt hold me back for a long, long time. It is only recently that, with a few accolades, some luck and masses of encouragement from friends, I started to believe there could be one or two things I might be reasonably good at. After years of crippling pain when I couldn’t do anything, I’ve been determined to push those things. My new mission has been to stop being precious, stop worrying about the judgement of others, and just get on and do that harp-playing, do that writing. As Alain de Botton says, work finally begins when the fear of doing nothing exceeds the fear of doing it badly.
(This is Doubt, played brilliantly by Cathy Grimmer in Simon’s Swanwick panto, and here is our hero writer accompanied by his duo of eccentric supporters)
At Swanwick I wrote a song. What’s more, I dared myself to stand up and sing it, unaccompanied, in front of a packed audience at the Buskers’ Night. I got the very last slot on the list, so I spent the whole evening gearing myself up, paralysed with nerves, and completely unable to enjoy all the other acts. I was damn well going to do it though, if only to prove to myself that I could. But due to a little oversight, the final number of the night was announced, a group got up with guitars to play, and I was never called up. I had no chance either to succeed or fail.
Although there was an element of relief, my overriding emotion was one of grief. Yes, actual grief.
My lack of performance that night made precisely no difference to the history of the universe. Nobody there (apart from me) gave a fig whether I sang my song or not. So why did it get to me so much?
Maybe I was just desperate to show off. I admit that’s a possibility. OK, a strong probability. But I think there was another reason too: Creativity is to be shared. Stories want to be told, books want to be read, music wants to be listened to, songs want to be sung… to other people. Without other people it all seems a bit… well…pointless.
This is why writers go indie when rejected by the publishing industry. This is why artists and musicians often offer their time and talents for free. This is why, although performing in public still scares the socks off me, I am saddened when there are no bookings. Harp music is too lovely not to share.
It is important to take stuff in and I took in so much information at Swanwick, but there comes a point when you have to put stuff out there too, for better or for worse. Being held back again has made me realise my desire to communicate with others in words and in music is now strong, strong to bursting… I can’t help it. I can only hope it is a good thing!