How To Overcome Anxiety About Sharing/Reading Your Writing
In a couple of weeks I’m going to be reading my work in front of a bunch of people for the first time ever (you’re all invited! info here). I’ve never had a problem sharing my work for others to read, but this is different and I’m admittedly a little nervous!
Some yeah writers wrote in with tips on how to overcome both a fear of sharing your work and reading stage fright. Here’s what they had to say:
Beating stage fright is hard—almost impossibly so. I’ve always, always, always had anxiety issues. But I come from a improv background, and my love of doing improv superseded any stage fright. I was ready to vomit. The cliché of sweaty palms, butterflies, dry throat, all that stuff was true. But it was exhilarating. And creating a scene was just so rad.
It also prepared me for the inevitable of failure. Don’t be afraid to fail. In fact, don’t even consider the word “fail”. Just think of everything as an experience. I did stand-up comedy, too, and that mentality of “Ah, fuck it” certainly helped. I still felt nervous. I still wanted to throw up. But I heard my name called, I took to the stage and was greeted with a surprising amount of support. These people came to the show to support me, and to support my stand-up comedy and creation and art, just like people come to readings to support good poetry. Remember that they want you to succeed, and they wanna see good poetry. And you were chosen to read because you’re a good poet.
Again, though, it’s really, really hard to get over anxiety. And anxiety can certainly affect people in many, many different ways.
Sounds crazy, but I’d honestly suggest improv classes to people. They help so, so much. And they’re fun. I think it helps a lot if you have the “mind” for improv, though, and you can think fast.
And read your work in front of friends. Build it up from the small.
The first time something I wrote was read aloud, it wasn’t read by me. First semester as a freshman in college, we had to take a writing class and our first assignment was an personal essay. When the professor was giving them back, she said “I won’t say who wrote this but this was beyond what I expected” and read my essay, all three pages, to the class. It was a crazy feeling, to be part of the audience and hear your words being read like a “real” story. Years later, I won a poetry contest and the winners had to read it to a small audience in school. The poet Alicia Ostriker was there! I was the first in line to read (damn my last name) and I was shaking but I thought, you know, this poem and I have one chance, one shot to be heard like this, and I’m going to make it the best I can be and freak out later. I think that helped.
Good luck with your reading, I live in the area and I’ll try to make it!
Being forced to share my stories as part of a writing class really helped me. It’s still hard to share my writing, but everything is less scary after having to read my stories to the class. In some ways, that experience was more helpful than the actual critiques I received.
just show people ur shit and you’ll get used to it because if you don’t ever show anyone ur stories then u’ll never get any better or learn to deal with criticism. soon ur heart will be hard as steel and no one will um get to you. fart.
On overcoming your fear of sharing writing: Your characters need their story to be heard in order to live. Just like a fairy needs you to believe, or at the very least clap. Ask someone you’ve seen reading before, someone who’s opinion you would value but wouldn’t sugar coat it. If that’s too intimidating and your work is age appropriate, hey always test it on kids. Look to see if you can hold a child’s attention span and ask them what they liked if anything when you’re done.
The first time I read my work aloud I was 6 years old and dressed up like a pilgrim. That’s about as bad as it can get, so I’ve had no problems since.
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