A few months ago I read one of my stories allowed…in front of an audience. I agreed to do this several months before the actual event. Long before I had considered what this would mean. It meant standing up before total strangers and a handful of friends and reading a story that I had poured my heart into. Not to mention the hours of editing and revisions I put my story through to get it ready to be read aloud.
At first I couldn’t even decide what story I wanted to read. For a few months I was sure I wanted to read one story about an old legend and an extinct Indian tribe. But the closer I got to the event the louder the voice inside my head said, “No, that isn’t the right story. Don’t read that one.” No matter what my friends said to encourage me that voice wouldn’t be silent.
Eventually I decided on another story that needed quite a bit of editing but felt more like something I would be comfortable reading to an audience. It was a story about a young girl living on her own for the first time and being terrified. I was convinced that if I got scared during the reading everyone would simply attribute it to the character of the story. So with the help of one of my friends I edited the story until we both felt it was ready and sure enough there were only a few weeks until the reading. That’s when the panic set in.
Suddenly every time I thought about reading my story I got sick to my stomach, my palms became sweaty. All I could think about was that I had made a mistake and no one would want to hear my silly story. What if no one liked it? What if I couldn’t bring myself to read it? Or I became so nervous that I stuttered and couldn’t be understood?
However despite the fact that every fiber in my being told me to flee I didn’t. I practiced reading the story in my room. This reassured me that I wasn’t missing any flaws within the story. So on the night of the reading I showed up and read my story aloud to an audience for the first time. It was horrible and fantastic. I was so incredibly nervous but when it was my turn I stood up and I read.
I read perfectly every line. I fell into the rhythm of the story and almost forgot where I was. Not once did I look up at the audience. I kept my eyes focused on the paper afraid that if I looked away for a moment I would lose my place. The moment I was done I returned to my seat and felt exhaustion and relief pour over me.
Afterwards a couple of people came up to me and told me what a great job I had done. This made me feel great. I was relieved. I hadn’t made a fool of myself and no one had told me I should give up writing. In fact knowing I was going to read my story to people encouraged me to work on it. I would suggest that every writer read his or her story aloud at some event even if they only do it once.It is a great experience and will definitely help you in so many ways as a writer. Just know now it may be the scariest thing you do.