Some say the hardest thing about writing is the actual act itself. Sitting down (or standing up) and pounding out words.
I can get on board with that. Take me for instance, I’ve written for 29 out of 30 days this month. I’ve only been attempting to write daily for a month for…well…for months. Things get in the way though. Like work. If you think all writers get paid for doing this, you’d be wrong. Sure, there are a few who can pay the bills by spinning yarns about things they make up, but the rest of us go to work. And if the rest of us go to work for a standard eight hour day, five days a week, that’s a lot of hours when they aren’t writing.
The rest of the time? They’re on Facebook, which eats up another bunch of hours in a week. Other than that, they’re eating or sleeping. Leaving approximately forty-seven minutes per week to write a novel. Is it any wonder the rumor is that writing is hard?
That’s not the hardest part though. Maybe building your author platform is. Something I doubt Mark Twain had to do during his tenure as a writer. No. I think his books wrote themselves and everyone just bought them. You know, the way this writing gig is supposed to go.
But last night, wow, that was different. The writing has come easily this month. Well, easier than in the last three months anyway. It’s still hard to get up hours before you have to go to work to think up random things to put down on paper. Especially when the time zone you live in is different from everyone else’s and your writing time has to be divided between penning words and checking Facebook.
The thing that was hard? Reading my work in public.
It’s not like they were a captive audience. I mean, they weren’t chained to the wall or in a jail cell or anything. No one was forcing them to stay. No one had even forced them to come to the event. They just did. It was like they wanted to be there or something. It was weird.
As part of the writing class I’d taken, this was the last hurrah.
“Write a story and then bring it to read out loud to others,” the syllabus said.
Did I mention I wasn’t even taking the course for a grade? That’s write, I had signed up, paid the money (even though I wasn’t going to get a grade), purchased the requisite books, and went to class every once a week for a semester.
Okay, so I missed two classes. It’s not like I was getting a grade.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t regret attending the class. I got a lot out of it. I learned how to write short stories. I got criticism and feedback from others during the workshop sessions. I was given the chance to read parts of my stories out loud in class and read a lot of excellent short stories from actual published writers and from my classmates.
I also got homework. Every week. The last week’s assignment being “read your story out loud in front of people.”
Also bring a dish to share.
I had my husband make the dish. He made muffins. They were good.
Reading my story aloud was a great learning experience. I can probably think of ten things I learned just from that one assignment. Let’s see.
1. Reading your work out loud for others is nerve racking.
2. Don’t eat before a public reading that doubles as a potluck. You won’t be hungry for the potluck if you do.
3. Be sure to proofread your story before reading. It’s embarrassing enough when a writer makes a critical sentence structure mistake, imagine how it sounds when others have to hear it.
4. The podium you stand behind won’t be big enough to hide all your jitters. Take a pencil up there with you for necessary tapping.
5. Be sure you have something to read before you get up there. You know something you actually wrote. It’s kind of expected.
6. If it’s a small crowd, don’t expect people to LOL while you’re reading even if you’re story is funny. For some reason, they don’t. Just keep reading as if you didn’t think it was funny either. Even though you know it is and not smiling at the funny parts is hard. Almost as hard as having written the story in the first place.
7. Be aware of the fact that you’re supposed to look up occasionally while you read. Awareness is plenty. Don’t actually do it. You might lose your place and not be able to find it again. Awkward.
8. Do not jump up and down with glee or hug the neck of the one stranger who after it’s over, comes up to you and tells you how much she liked your story. There’s no need to act desperate or embarrass yourself. You might not be invited back if you do. Wait. On second thought, do jump up and down and hug strangers. This could be your fifteen minutes of fame and then you can go back to closet writing where the stakes aren’t nearly as high.
9. Use your speech giving voice when you read. Remember the one you learned to master in that public speaking class you took in college? That’s the one…the skill you never thought you’d have to use because you were going to be a writer, not a public speaker. It’ll come in handy here as you speak clearly and just loudly enough to mask the silence of everyone listening to you read.
10. Be a little bit proud of yourself. Not in an arrogant way by any means. But in a way that makes you feel good about yourself. You did this thing. You took a writing prompt or an idea or a word and you weaved it into a story. A good one. And you read it out loud in front of other people. A few more years, another dozen stories, and someday, someone might just pay you to do this for a living.
Have you ever done something that took hard work and dedication? Wrote a story? Penned song lyrics? Painted a picture? Maybe you built a piece of furniture or learned a foreign language. Whatever creative endeavor you embarked on, be proud of yourself.