In the beginning, there’s just you, the pen and the paper – or the keyboard – and your inspiration. Words spill out, and if you hold onto that privacy of setting yourself on the page, you can write anything. That’s how I believe the best writing takes place.
The page is a space of freedom to explore ideas, to experiment with form and content, to imagine; to re-imagine: to remember. You can chose when and with whom to share it. Will you though?
That’s a big step, for most of us. Even handing out a finished hard copy so that someone else can read it, can be nerve-racking, and hopefully we will have chosen our ideal reader carefully.
So what happens if you’re asked to read it aloud? There are a few competitions around now where the chosen texts are expected to be delivered to an audience, by the author. Do you avoid submitting your work, in case you get picked? That would be a shame. Your work might be perfectly suited to ‘telling’.
It’s been a source of discussion in my creative writing group, where we encourage each other to read our homework tasks to the group. Some people are confident about this, they’re natural story-tellers who know how to pace, and dramatise. For most of the rest of us though, it’s a steep learning curve.
Between us, we’ve shared a range of approaches, so I thought I’d try gathering them into a list.
- Read poems or stories that you like aloud.
- You can do this on your own, or to a willing and sympathetic guinea-pig, who may then help you to change your style.
- If you’ve small children in your life, read to them.
- Put your mind to making the text entertaining, don’t just deliver the words dryly.
- Children love silly voices, pauses and dramatic interpretations.
- Just because you read dramatically with them, doesn’t mean you need to employ those techniques to an adult audience, but knowing that you can loosen up will help your confidence.
- Read your work aloud to yourself several times.
- This will help you to practice timing, and see if there are difficult phrases, or changes needed in the punctuation, so you’re winning on two levels.
- Go along to some readings and open-mic events.
- Don’t just chose the big-name venues, opt for local, room-in-a-pub groups.
- Enjoy listening, but at the same time, notice how varied the styles of reading are. Some people are performers, but lots more are good readers.
- Try a public speaking coach. They’ll have a wide range of strategies and approaches to help you overcome nerves and develop your delivery style.
What I find, is that confidence comes through practice. Nerves are natural, so my list starts small and builds.
This week I’ve had enthusiastic emails from two of my regular group who went along to Miki’s poetry workshop & open mic in the bar of The Roses, one of our local theatres. ‘Poetry night was great,’ said one, ‘we really enjoyed it,’ said the other.
There’s a big writing world out there, and it’s ours, if we just dare…
What else are we going to do with our writing, if we don’t share it?