Opening Night Jitters

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by Dr. Richard Mabry

I remember it well. It was the opening (and closing) night for the fifth grade’s performance of the musical, The Gypsy King. I played the male lead, Kom, opposite the attractive blonde classmate on whom I’d had a crush for a year. (Never mind why Yola, the Gypsy Queen, was a blonde. Ever hear of “suspension of disbelief?”)

Twenty minutes before curtain, I felt the sweat popping out on my forehead. My stomach started turning flip-flops. And despite my best efforts, the half a hamburger I’d had for supper made a sudden reappearance. The music teacher told me it was because of the heavy layer of pancake make-up I had on. The principal stepped in with a mop and assured me everything was going to be all right. The other cast members carefully avoided me, undoubtedly giving thanks it had happened to me, not them.

The music teacher called “places,” the curtain went up, and so far as I recall, all the lines were spoken, all the songs were sung, and in the closing scene I hugged the Gypsy Queen, which was as close to a kiss as we were allowed. But my strongest memory wasn’t my performance that night. It was the jitters I had just before the curtain went up.

Lest you think that first night jitters are confined to fifth graders, I’d tell you that some Broadway actors admit they actually throw up before the curtain rises on opening night. Professional athletes like major league pitchers or NFL quarterbacks are subject to these same feelings. And authors experience this anxiety as well as the time approaches for the launch of their book, especially the first one.

My novel that is scheduled for release tomorrow will be my sixth, so this whole launch day business should be old hat by now, right? I’m not ashamed to admit that, with the release of every one of them, I’ve had the same feelings I experienced that opening night when I got to hug my attractive blonde classmate – well, except for the throwing up. I’ve managed to get past that part of it. Why do I still feel this way? It’s not that future contracts and royalties will hinge on the reception of this book, although that’s true. It’s not even that I’m anxious to have my work appreciated, although I am. Most of the pressure I feel is because I want the book to accomplish what God has in mind for it.

What’s the best remedy for this feeling? Write the best book you can. Edit and edit again until it’s polished like a diamond. Then turn it over to God. Oh, and don’t put on too much pancake makeup before the launch. I had a bad experience once with that stuff.

Heart Failure coverDr. Richard Mabry is a retired physician, past Vice-President of the American Christian Fiction Writers, and the author of six published novels of medical suspense. His books have been finalists in competitions including ACFW’s Carol Award and Romantic Times’ Inspirational Book of the Year. Richard’s latest novel, Heart Failure, releases on October 15.

Comments 0

  1. What a fun post, Richard. I smiled at the fifth grade story. Used to teach it, once upon a time. It’s interesting to hear that authors have jitters before their books release. I’m not at that point yet, but hope to be one day. I wonder if the jitters come with the wondering how others will like our work… Just the thought that came to my mind.

    If…When I get to release a book, I’ll be sure not to wear any pancake makeup. 😉

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