When people ring to book my creative writing classes, one of the questions that bubbles up is: ‘Will I have to read it out?” It’s usually asked with a little quaver in the voice. Unfortunately for them, I have to crack the whip and say yes.
There is a method in my madness. Allow me to explain. When people think of reading out loud, they think of school: the sniggers of their classmates if they stumbled over words, the teacher getting cross, their faces growing redder. Add to that the fact that most people put speaking in front of a crowd on a par with being put into a room full of spiders or snakes and you can see why people might feel like running for the hills.
What they don’t realise is that the environment of a creative writing class is very different from that of school. It’s warm and supportive. Everyone’s in the same boat; they’re all adults who haven’t been in a classroom in years. They’ve taken the gamble of sharing work with people they probably never knew before they joined the class. And in the end, no-one can read your work as well as you. You’re the one who has written it,. Only you can do justice to it.
That’s why I encourage people to overcome their fear and read their work. Obviously, if someone is so phobic about the thought of reading aloud that it puts them off going to class, I’m not going to force them. Instead, I hope people will feel the way they might if they skied down a mountain – exhilarated and invigorated.
So if you’re nervous at the thought of sharing your writing with a group, take a deep breath and take a chance. The people who listen to you will be rooting for you and in the end, they’ll shower you with praise.