Zen and the Art of Being NakedPosted: March 19, 2014
One of the most common nightmares in the world – alongside falling or drowning, performing poorly on a test, and being chased – is the one where you’re naked in front of a room full of strangers.
This fear always seemed odd to me. Being naked in front of a roomful of strangers I can handle. Being naked in front of friends and peers is a different story.
I’m speaking metaphorically, of course.
So when I decided to read my fiction last week at my first open mic, it felt akin to baring my soul, standing exposed in front of a roomful of other writers and friends. But I had decided to take a radical step towards bravery and I would not be dissuaded from shaking up my life in this way. In my experience, shaking things up to the point of discomfort has always been the only way forward.
Shaking things up worked when I dropped everything in my life and moved to Germany. It worked when I swam with a dolphin off the coast of Ireland. It worked when I got lost in Venice and the time I explored Buenos Aires without a map. And shaking things up worked when I lost my brother, dedicated myself to my family, and stopped writing for a time in order to re-center myself. It worked again a few years ago when I started a blog and began my monthly column here. And it works every time I fall into and out of love.
Within these mini earthquakes lies the makeup of my person. Just as rifts between oceans and land broke Pangaea apart and created new continents, one can trace my personal map in the fault lines of my Id, Ego, and Super-ego. Even when I am seemingly still, an unseen part of me is shifting. Shocks to the system – and our ability to adapt to them – drive personal evolution.
Why did the open mic terrify me so much? After all, I’ve become more accustomed to sharing my creative nonfiction writing here, as your resident Geekologist, and as The Memorist on my personal blog. I am a strong public speaker having moderated panels and events. But put the two together (my personal writing and a public audience) and I am terrified.
Something about instant feedback, complimentary or derogatory, lends itself to nakedness far worse than physical nudity. I don’t take compliments well, as I suffer from the “imposter syndrome,” which is something that plagues many creative individuals. This is a phenomenon where despite evidence of talent and competence, a person remains convinced of his or her own inadequacy, chalking up said accomplishments to luck, timing, or pure charlatanism. As writers, we often crave attention while also feeling burdened by it. We are snake oil salesmen who don’t want you to get too close lest you see through our act.
I write because I can’t help myself. I write because when I stop writing, I feel like I stop breathing. I write because words batter at my brain until I put pen to paper and let the beasts out. Yet, these things do not mean that I feel I am any good at it.
I survived the open mic. This little experiment provided a tiny chink in my armor to allow some light to come through. The experience made me slightly less doubtful of my own abilities. I want to share more, write more. I find that I want to shed my armor, little by little and all at once. I find that there is some benefit to standing in the sun, if only to bask in its rays.
But most of all, I find that I enjoy being naked.
Zainab Chaudary works in politics by day and as a writer by night. Her blog, The Memorist, ruminates upon travel, religion, science, relationships, and the past, present, and future experiences that make up a life. She tweets @TheMemorist