When a form of bookish stage fright hits an author she devises a unique solution. But will the readers cooperate? Imagining a naked reader to help the author write.
I try to imagine you – the future reader of my yet unpublished novel. Thinking about what squares in the circles of your mind fills me with dread. The pipes of my inner plumbing clog and drain in fits of anxiety as I imagine you reading words that have escaped from my fingertips onto the keyboard swooshing across the digital terrain into the palms of your prized hands.
Will you laugh with me or at me?
“Imagine the audience in underwear” was the advice I got when I began performing as a dancer. Stage fright would strike with paralyzing awe. My muscles would seize up refusing to move with the grace hoped for and instead produce spastic overtures the likes of which brought about memories of old monty python skits. For somebody who has lived in two war zones you would think that getting up on a stage would be easy. Bullets in combat are seldom personal. A fierce gaze from an audience member was more terrifying than looking up at a gun barrel. Hence: stage fright. It is absurd to say such things. Offensive even. Allow me to apologize in advance. For me, placing my body on a platform was more petrifying than fear of death. Dancing doesn’t kill – I place these words here to remind myself, for my benefit not yours.
Will you cry at the parts where my tears congealed into words?
Visualizing audience in underwear never helped me much. Stage fright only got worse. It was eyes that I needed to imagine clothed. Yet strangely at this new juncture I fancy your sight firmly absorbing strung words on a page and a new creation of horror rises up. It doesn’t afflict my muscles or joints. This one assaults deeper; a heavy burden of a sensation in my stomach. To sooth the ruffled feathers of the inner lining of my afflicted gastric organ, a new magical trick is required. Dear future reader of my novel, I require you to partake in my creation naked. Naked as the day your mother expelled you from her womb. You are making a fashion statement of a sort : “My imagination is fully clothed and therefore I don’t need to wear clothes.” I am visualizing you with ample folds around your midriff, your eye lashes cast downwards, pubic hair sticking out, stretch marks and cellulite. You seem gobsmacking beautiful to me sitting on a chair.
Will you muse at the quiet murmurs in between the lines and realize that they are not a birth defect?
To enforce my majestic innovation I will enlist multitudes of volunteers from all over the world through the powerful reaching hands of the internet. Any infringement of my clause will be photographed and the offensive evidence uploaded to a custom designed website. Your attired self, consuming my newly minted fiction will be revealed for all to ridicule. So don’t dare break my one rule- read my novel in a released from clothing state. It might not enhance your reading pleasure but it will assuage the distress of my revelation.
Fine! Perhaps I am being over the top. My stage fright has gotten the better of me. I realize that nudity in public might pose an impediment for a few. I don’t wish to be difficult. A diva author is less tolerable than an opera singer. At least promise me this. When you pick up the book, you will imagine yourself naked and attempt to the best of your ability to not think of me at all. My novel is a clothing optional affair.
Will you understand that the humor disguises a secret?
Have you discovered a remedy for stage fright? Have you experienced the pleasures of being a naked reader? Please share.
* The image above is graffiti by Thrash Bird. I found this one on 12th ave and Granville in Vancouver BC.