Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Reflections from Behind the Podium (AKA Sunny has an Identity Crisis)

Today I did something for the first time that made me more nervous than I've been for a long time.

I read my creative writing out loud, to strangers. 

There's a few things you should know before I launch into my story (haha, pun intended).

Thing One:
As many of your know, I'm pursuing a double major in English and Medieval Studies at university right now. Every semester the English department does a little colloquium where alumni come and basically the department boasts promotes how awesome it is. It's all good fun; usually we get excused from class to go. This semester featured a session dedicated to student writers.

Thing Two:
In first year I took a Creative Writing class that was perfectly lovely and challenging and oh-so-good for me as a writer. I wrote some really strong pieces for that course (if I do say so myself), and I also began working on my current project during that semester. The same prof that taught that course is teaching another English course that I'm taking right now. This prof was also one of the organizers for this colloquium.

Okay. Background over. Let's get to the good stuff. 

Last week in class my prof put out a call for volunteer readers for the upcoming colloquium. As soon as she announced it, my little inner voice said Mayb- haha no.

Then I went on with my day, colloquium gone from my thoughts. A day went by and the class came up again in my schedule. I was completely carefree (well, as carefree as any student), until my prof announced that she like to speak to myself and two other people after class. Instant fear.

You know the feeling. I started mentally going through everything I had said or done in her classroom that might be slightly offensive. When class was finally over I went up to speak to her, and she revealed that we weren't in trouble. Instant relief.

Instead, she wanted us to share our work at the colloquium. Relief gone. She didn't explicitly say so, but it was clear she couldn't find enough volunteers. My gut reaction was to say "NO!" and walk right out of the classroom. However, I didn't. I did say that I might throw-up if I have to read. Then my prof dropped a line that made me rethink my position:

"I really feel that this is the next step in your journey as a writer"

Now, what am I supposed to say to that? 
She told me to think about it and email her. I walked out of that class thinking pretty seriously about the opportunity. Here's the thing, I'm not a shy person. I don't mind speaking in class or introducing myself to new people. I wouldn't even bat an eye if my prof asked me to get up and give a speech about *insert anything not creative*. So, it was strange for me to have such a visceral reaction to reading creative work aloud.

I've never liked to call myself a writer. I always felt that someone would think I was being silly or childish or trying to hard to be serious. The other faucet to that school of thought, is that my creative writing carries so much of myself in it that it's difficult to share something that I see as so private. It's not that I'm an overt, self-confessional writer, it's just that I have incredibly high standards for myself and I hate sharing "raw" work that isn't ready for the world. And nothing I write is ever ready for the world. No matter how many revisions it's gone through, I tend to think it's not refined enough. Maybe this is an issue with confidence, I don't know. Feel free to psycho-analyse me in the comments.

By being asked to read my creative work, I was being asked to pry myself open. I wanted so badly to say no, but I knew I needed to say yes. So today I went up to the podium with my three measly sheets of text and read them out loud. I'm glad that the podium was there because it hid my shaking hands. I heard my voice wobbling at first, then I managed to pull it together. I didn't look up once while I was reading, but it didn't really matter. I made it through the piece. They clapped. My friends said nice things to me.

Perhaps the most interesting part of this whole experience is that I didn't feel that high I usually do when I do something so out of my comfort zone. Don't get me wrong, I'm happy with my experience and I'm glad I did it, but I'm not elated. I haven't found my calling as a narrator. I'm not going to jump back behind the podium to read, but I think this was a small step forward in my "journey as a writer".

How about you? Have you read anything aloud? Are you a natural speaker? Do you have writer identity issues likes me? Tell me all your thoughts in the comments!

Reading: The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien
Listening: Regina Spektor
Watching: The Shannara Chronicles 


  1. Wow, that's so amazing! I'm glad you read your work aloud. It's kinda cool when you do because you're owning the fact that you're a writer and even though you might be scared or nervous it's still a step forwards in being confident in your work. That's my take on it, at least.

    I've only read my stuff out to my writing group, and it took several months of going before I was comfortable. (Plus, they were all 40-80 years old so it wasn't like I was talking to people my own age. I think that would have been scarier.) They were really kind and helped me improve and stuff. Thanks for sharing your experiences. I hope more people will consider reading their stuff aloud :)

    1. I was totally owning up to the fact that I was a writer. Great way to put it :)

      I love that you go a writer's group! It's so impressive that you put yourself out there! Thanks for sharing your experiences:)

  2. Good for you! Regardless of what it is, I think part of anyone's journey is a point where you've just got to take every opportunity that becomes available. Putting yourself out there is definitely scary but so, so necessary.

    1. I've definitely been trying to just say yes to things, even if they sound scary, when I know they're good for me.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Congrats! I hate reading my writing out loud too - it always makes me cringe *cringes*. You were so brave and I'm glad you learned about yourself in the process :)

    1. Thank you for the kind words! Apparently it gets better with practice, but I might never find that out:P

  4. I don't write creatively, but I feel you about the whole "I want to keep this to myself because it's probably not good enough". I'm glad you took the opportunity to read your work out loud though! I think it's definitely a step in the right direction! (As scary as it seems)

    1. Thanks! I hope it's a step in the right direction too. I'm hoping that it gets less scary the more I do it.

  5. I totally understand what you mean. I am able to tell everyone about anything not creative, but the second that my teacher calls on me to read a piece out loud I break out in sweat and go all red in the face. So congrats! I'm happy that you conquered this step!

    Love, Mia

    1. I was SO red in the face. I felt my neck and cheeks burning near the end and for a good while afterwords. thanks for the encouragement! You should give it a try if you get the chance:)

  6. Wow that's so brave! During these critique lessons I used to do at a conference someone would read our works out loud and my heart felt like it would fly out of my chest every time. I'm not a very good public speaker. I stutter or start crying. XD I managed to not do that while teaching a class at a conference and while making a speech for an award, but it's not my favorite thing. XD

    1. It looks like you're making some good strides to over come your fear! I definitely prefer it if someone else reads my work, then I don't have to worry about my voice stuttering.

  7. I kind of had a similar experience lately when I had to read one of my papers in front of an audience because apparently it was good or something... It was totally scary and I didn't really enjoy speaking in front of a group like that... but there was orange and apple juice to make up for it in the end. And like your teacher said, it was a step on the writing journey. *sighs* Gotta keep doing this stuff.

  8. Wow! Very very well done. This was a great post, Sunny. I'm so glad you did this. I can think of a similar experience when Scottish writer Kirsty Logan came to do a workshop at my school. We wrote five minute pieces whilst in the workshop and she asked for volunteers. Naturally, no one put their hands up. For me, it's a lot less a fear of being judged for bad work, and more a fear of being judged for actually choosing to read it out. Like, I did not want to be the first person because I was worried that if I did, everyone would think I thought I was a good writer and was arrogant? That was my fear. But I could feel my teacher watching me and willing me (like your prof!), and in the end I put my hand up -- at the exact same minute as a friend, so it wasn't too bad, I wasn't the first XD

    I do get what you mean about such personal stories. I find that especially with my poetry. Like, NO ONE IS EVER GETTING NEAR IT. At least, not 95% of it. It's like my diary, but with way awful pretentious images XD

    Three more things:

    1. I nominated you for the (new and improved by me) Dragon Loyalty Game!

    2. How are you enjoying Two Towers?

    3. What Regina are you listening to? I LOVE her, which album are you on?

    Emily xx

    PS I don't visit enough, I'm so happy to be here :)


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