Last night, I went to a monthly spoken word event here in Whitehorse called Brave New Words. I totally recommend it to any writers/readers general word enthusiasts in or around the Whitehorse area. I read a short fiction piece I’ve been working on. My palms were sweaty and my mouth was drier than a floured raison. In the quaint room full of well-loved books and strangers, I was so nervous I thought I might pee my pants. But as a relaxed and got into the third paragraph and then the fourth-and heard a ‘mmm’ and a nod and a laugh- it got a little easier. And after hearing everyone share their own work: poetry, fiction, memoir, well some of us, like myself, may have arrived strangers, but we left: a community.
There’s just something so scary, and moving, and satisfying about reading something you have written aloud in the presence of others and hearing/seeing them react to it.
It isn’t something I have whole lot of experience doing. In my studies at UBC we handed out copies of our pieces to everyone and they all gave us feedback, orally in class, and written feedback to take home; I had very few classes in which the professor asked us to read our piece or a section of are piece aloud. I think it should be written into the curriculum. I think it should something every writer at least tries. It is so beneficial to read your work to others. It can really help you with the early drafts and the later drafts: all the drafts really. In a room full of people, you can hear the sigh, or the giggle, or the simultaneous scrunch of eyebrows furrowing in confusion. And it clicks: okay, that’s not the reaction I was going for there, but it’s spot on there, and needs just a wee bit of clarifying here.
Of course, there are certain genres that are meant to be heard and not read, but I really think even the most hard-paper genres can benefit from this exercise. Especially anything containing dialogue. Dialogue comes to life off the page, through the voice and the voices of the characters.
It can be difficult to find a space where you feel safe and brave enough to read your writing aloud. There is no denying the vulnerability of the act. This is your heart, your mind, your brain babies, your dear dear little darlings- and yes sometimes you do have to kill those darlings- but maybe not all of them! Sharing your work orally, may help you see which ones can stay and which ones have to be chopped.
Good luck, and thanks for listening 😉
Heidi J. Loos