Today, my body is jangling; nervous excitement bubbling within. At regular intervals, when I’m making a cup of tea, or feeding the cat, or hoovering the carpet, my mind falls upon the approaching evening and a thrill of fear ripples through me. I take a calming breath, tell myself it will be fine and try to get on with my day. Sometimes I wonder, why do I do this to myself? Why go through this self-imposed stress and worry?
The tense build-up of anticipation, the pacing, nail nibbling and sudden lurching in my stomach is completely my own doing. Tonight, at a local venue surrounded by people who know me, I will sing.
I love to sing. It gives me great joy; a sense of peace and well-being. At home, I sing all the time. To my husband, who says I have a song for every occasion, to my children, to my chickens, dogs, cats and goats. I think my singing probably drives them a little crazy (the humans not the animals; they adore it and often ask for more). I don’t care, I sing anyway. Often, I wish life was a musical.
The problem was, although I sang non-stop at home, I never sang anywhere else. As a child, I was in a school choir, and I busked a bit as a teenager, but nothing since. Singing was, much like my writing, a secret, private thing. Recently, I began to feel that wasn’t satisfactory. We only get one chance at life and mine was moving on at a shocking rate. I decided to attend a local singing group. The first meeting was terrifying. ‘Are you a soprano or alto?’ they asked. ‘I don’t know,’ I replied, ‘I just like to sing.’ It didn’t matter, I could join in and see where I felt comfortable. As the piano began, I was shaking. What if I loved singing but sounded like a frog with influenza?
There was no need for concern. From the moment I opened my mouth and sang the first note, I knew I belonged. My spirits rose, soaring into the sky to mingle with our voices. My confidence grew and I realized that I had been missing out. Being too shy, too afraid, I had prevented myself from getting involved with singing before. I had waited until I was nearly fifty. Now I had found something special and I wanted to waste no time catching up.
So, how did I get from one singing session to waiting with trepidation to perform this evening? Well, at Christmas, our group performed a carol concert. At the venue, there was a chap playing the fiddle and I commented to a friend (rather stupidly it turned out) that I’d love to sing some folk tunes with him. The next thing I knew, he approached me and said my friend had told him I’d like to sing with him. It was like being back on the school playground and I blushed as crimson as I did those long days ago. Despite the embarrassment, I agreed and we have been practising determinedly.
I am ready for tonight. After all these years, I have found my voice.
Hopefully, I will find my voice as a writer too. There’s a huge amount of advice out there. We should be concise. We should have rhythm. We should appeal to our readers. We should write what we know. We should observe the details. We should paint clear pictures. We should read other’s work. We should be ourselves. It can get a bit overwhelming; like a singer in front of an audience, the fear and doubt can make us dry up. We open our pens and nothing comes out.
I think I’m going to concentrate on enjoying myself and being true to myself. Like my performance tonight, I’ll focus on one word at a time.
Do you think you’ve found your voice yet?