Writing and Sharing

This is another post in my “Writing and ____” series in which I explore a subject that writers frequently face. Today I’d like to talk about sharing your work; not just publishing it, but really sharing it at a reading or other public or private event.

How do you feel about getting up in front of a crowd (large or small) and reading from a completed work or even a work in progress? I am not naturally shy. I am not quiet. I’m naturally a very extroverted person. But, I suck at public speaking.

Okay. I suppose I should be a little more specific. I don’t suck at public speaking. I know what I’m doing when I get up there. I speak well and clearly. I don’t have verbal tics like “umm” and “err.” I just suck at getting nervous.

Last year, when I published Withered World and had a group book party with two other writers, one person in our group wanted all of us to read excerpts from our books. I agreed. But internally, I groaned. What if people didn’t like what I read? What if they weren’t interested in my book? Nevermind that the crowd was full of friends and family. I was still freaked out!

So what happened when I finally forced myself up on stage? Well, I was nervous, but I focused on the words on the page in front of me and read. I glanced up and made eye contact with the audience from time to time, because I remember learning this tactic during that public speaking class. And I got through it. I even went on to explain some of the background of what I was reading and talked about where the idea for my story and characters came from. Best of all, what I shared was well-received. And, unbelievably, I got some compliments about how well I spoke up on stage.

The funny thing is, I know people love being read to. And they love hearing an author read the words they have written aloud. I enjoy going to author readings and listening to the author’s intonations and witnessing how they interpret their own works. And yet, my hesitation persists.

But, there are lots of advantages to being a good public speaker and reader that can benefit your career as a writer. Here are a few examples.

  1. Having a good audience presence is important as a writer because no one is going to get out there and promote you except for you. I’m not shy about telling people I’m a writer, telling them what I write about or where to find my books. So, I think I’m halfway there.
  2. Creating the opportunity to receive feedback is always beneficial. So, share your work when you can. I know I need to work on this.
  3. What if you hit it big and they want you to go out on book tour? Authors who are engaging with their audience are more likely to sell books. And when you can actually interact with the people who are fueling your career, they will love you all the more!

Last weekend, some friends hosted their annual “gift exchange.” This is no ordinary gift exchange though. This is a gift exchange for creatives, for writers, for storytellers, for performers. It’s a really fun event, but I struggle between wanting to share something and receive feedback and, well, the whole problem of sharing something in front of a bunch of people thing. At the past couple of gatherings, I have shared a short story or a piece of a work in progress. But this time, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. My topic was so different from what everyone else was reading and there were many people in the room that I hadn’t met before. One of the things I fear most is being judged as a person for something I have written.

Going forward, I know that I need to be better about sharing my work and not worrying so much about everyone liking my work. These issues are not insurmountable. I just need a little more confidence and a little more focus.

Do you struggle with public speaking or doing readings? How do you motivate yourself to get better at this? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments!