When Writers Read Their Writing

Writers.

We’re an odd bunch. We sit in dark corners, keep erratic hours, talk to imaginary people, and have a Google search history that would land most folks on a government watch list at best, and at worst, in a sanitarium. We pour our hearts and brains onto the page so that hopefully, someone will READ what we’ve written and be entertained, informed, enlightened, disturbed, or some bizarre combination of all of the above.

The key word up there is “read.” We’re totally fine with people reading our stuff. That’s kind of the whole point of being a writer. And then someone says, “Hey! You should totally read your stuff! Out loud! To a room full of people!”

And we smile, scream, and run for the hills.

But a few of us come back, tap the mic, cringe a bit at how loud the speakers are, and actually read our shit out loud. It’s agonizing and intoxicating and terrifying and wonderful. We hate it. We love it. We regret it. We can’t wait to do it again.

If you have the chance to see a writer performing their own work, take a moment to appreciate how damn unsettling the experience probably is for that person. Tell someone who is afraid of heights to try the high-dive at the community pool. Tell a champion ping-pong player that they’re going to wrestle Hugo the Huge or Slammy von Turnbuckle. You’ll get the same reaction you’d usually get when asking a writer to read.

And when they’re good… When they have not only written something wonderful, but own that mic and give that story a damn good telling…

You’ve just witnessed someone going waaaaay out of their comfort zone to share something really special with you, and they pulled it off with flying colors. It’s magical. Just magical.

I had the opportunity to see a group of Minnesotan spec fiction writers perform yesterday. The MinnSpec Meetup Group hosted their annual Wordbrew, where folks mingle, drink, and then sit back and enjoy writers performing samples of their work. There wasn’t a single performance that I found wanting, and there were a couple that were pure gold. Seeing those writers give their stories their all, and feeling the crowd response was a fantastic experience.

So the next time you have a chance to see a writer perform their work, jump on it. Go. Open yourself up to the experience. That writer will be immensely grateful, and you’ll be better for the experience.

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