As writers, we spend a lot of time in our heads and staring at a blank page, and we’re often working on long-term projects that take time to complete. So every once in a while, it can be fun, instructive and good for our little gray cells to share some of what we’re working on with friends, family, and fellow book lovers. And coming together to celebrate the joys of reading is always fun. What’s more convivial than being surrounding by books while sipping wine and sampling strawberries and brie?
These are some of the reasons my critique group, Working Title Six enjoys mounting an annual reading of our works in progress at our favorite local bookstore, Watchung Booksellers. We had a “Fake News” theme this year that made it especially timely and induced me to pull out an old story I’d written a while ago and rework it. In thinking about all the planning that goes into even a small event like this, I realized that there are also a lot of benefits to “stepping out” our writing before an audience, whether it’s at a formal reading event or just an “open mike” session at your local library or even the poetry slams that are growing in popularity:
You’re reminded that you are writing for readers — there’s nothing like an audience to help you remember that you’re not just writing for yourself but to share and connect.
You are forced to confront your own fears about getting up in front of a group and sharing your work, which may be very personal. This is a big issue for many of us and the only way to surmount it is through practice.
You get a sense of where a story lags and where it seems to carry listeners along. There’s nothing like an audience’s reaction in the moment to reveal strengths and weaknesses.
You are pushed into a preparation mode which can help you polish a piece. To ensure a strong delivery, you have to practice reading a piece aloud, which is one of the best and simplest revising tools there is.
You can begin to build an audience and shape a writer’s persona — an image of yourself that encompasses not only craft, but also character.
So, the next time an opportunity comes your way to share your work, why not grab it — or even create one for yourself and your writing buddies? Write on!