My friend Temple organizes a regular storytelling event in Vancouver, WA (aka The Couve). Anecdotal Evidence features several people who tell true stories related in some way to a pre-determined theme. She had posted the theme for that month’s event on Facebook: “You want me to WHAT?”
That has been the theme of the last few years of my life, as it turns out. Given ten minutes I could fill pages with examples of being expected to perform feats of great strength over the last few years. I had gotten myself into these situations more often than not, but I had gotten through everything pretty well considering.
“Um…me?” I commented on Temple’s Facebook post.
Temple took to the idea of me doing her event like wolves to the meat in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s underwear, and that was that. I figured out how to work preparation into my schedule, and there it sat while I took care of other projects.
I gave myself about a week to prepare. Each time I sat down to work, anxiety started bubbling up from my gut. One afternoon I utilized the assistance of a friend to brainstorm, and then sent Temple a list of potential story ideas. She was keen on the two that my brainstorm buddy was also most excited about. One of those two had the potential to be uproariously hilarious and personally empowering. It would also have sent me straight to hell…but I would have loved every minute.
However. This story was very, very messy, and I just couldn’t put it together the right way in time. I brainstormed some notes, which my usually very supportive, very trusted brainstorm friend said weren’t hitting the mark. I tried to make myself sit and BE FUNNY, DAMMIT, but it just wasn’t happening. Instead I was sad and very, very angry.
Less than 24 hours before I was supposed to be performing in front of an audience of strangers, I decided to switch my story. The new story was about puppies. Everybody loves puppies, right? There’d be no way I could bomb, because everybody loves puppies.
The evening of the show, I stayed late at work to prepare my material a little. Over the course of an hour and a half I prepared notes and told the story to two coworkers. I printed out photos (here and here) to show to the audience members. Because EVERYBODY LOVES PUPPIES, RIGHT?
Then I went over to The Couve and told my story to a full room. Sadly I didn’t catch a lot of the audience’s reaction–I was putting more attention into remembering which details came next. All I really remember was fearing I had sobered up the room by mentioning the dead puppy in the story (uh-oh), and people laughing at one thing I intended as funny, and one instance of people laughing at me.
But then I showed the photos. And let me tell you: everybody loves puppies.
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One of my MPub instructors often used the phrase “it’s not quite there yet.” That was his way of remaining supportive of an idea while saying something still needed work. My other story is obviously not quite there yet.
It’s likely not quite there yet because it’s not the right time. This story is part of a larger epic that makes me furious on a daily basis. It makes me want to go to the internets and say “look everyone, look how I got the short end of the stick despite being a really good person.”
It would probably work better in written form—possibly even a full-length memoir. The problem: when you are completely invisible as a human being to your intended audience, you believe your effort is useless.