Finding An Audience; Being Heard: I’m Thinking About Doing A Reading

This year, I’ve really focused on growing as a writer. And I think I’ve come a long way, and to see that growth is both humbling and encouraging. I want to be better and that desire will never cease. But it’s a journey without a destination, so the process is everything. This year I’ve taken workshops and courses that have scared the crap out of me. I’ve set hard goals for myself, submitted work for the first time, entered a column contest and worked on pitches. I’ve explored mediums I never considered before. I’ve networked my butt off (and as a hardcore introvert, this is perhaps one of the hardest things for me to do); I’ve traded feedback with other writers. I’m in this to build a submission portfolio of things I can send out. I want to submit. I want to get published. I want to be heard.

And it’s the last thing that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. I hate doing readings, because I’m an introvert to the extreme. Public speaking makes me want to vomit. Add in that I’m deaf, and I can’t hear people, so I don’t get their reactions when I read. Sure, I have eyes and can see, but when I read it takes all of my concentration to not vomit, run away or start crying (not to mention concentrate on what I’m actually reading) that I don’t see smiles or laughter or boos, or uncomfortable looks. I read, and then I’m done. And once I’m done I want to pass out.

So why in the world would I be considering something that I hate? And something that makes me physically ill? And something that, when I think about it, I have the impulse to go hide under the covers? Because I want to be heard. I want to build an audience. I want my words to matter, my writing to make others feel something. I want to move people. I want to make a difference. I want to make people laugh. I want to make people aware. I want to be heard (yes I’m repeating this one). But until I get that book deal (ha!) that isn’t going to happen. Unless I get creative.

I’ve done readings in the past and received really positive responses. Most of them were always mandatory (college, graduate school) but the last two I did were voluntary, and again it was all about pushing myself. Challenging yourself is one of the best ways to grow – at least for me.

So now I’m wondering, should I really pursue this? Since I don’t want to, I can think of a thousand (I seriously could come up with that many!) reasons why not to bother. First, does it actually (or can it actually, real potential is enough of a reason, nothing is a guarantee) accomplish what I am looking for? Is it a way to build an audience? I honestly don’t’ know. The realist in me (or cynic according to my husband) thinks that it would be so “small scale” with such a high audience turnover that it wouldn’t really build a small yet solid foundation. Maybe for a local musician, but a local writer reading their work? Bitch, please! But again, is this just my fear and insecurities masquerading around as logic? I do not know.

Is this a good starting point to be heard? To reach and affect people? To have my words matter? Because that’s what I’m after. It’s not like writers get discovered in coffee shops, so I’m not looking for a book deal, agent, or anything else in the publishing verse to come out of said readings. It’s about finding and connecting to an audience. The end.

If doing a reading, a few times or regularly, could accomplish this, then there is the details to figure out. For starters – where? After some preliminary research, I found one potential spot, but it focused on poetry. And most of my stuff is short (like under five minutes) essays and other narratives. So, not poetry. Does any place even offer an open mic reading for writers that isn’t poetry-focused? Because in my search, which didn’t yield as many venue options as I had hoped, everything was poetry, poetry, poetry. Slam poetry, any kind of poetry, themed poetry – but it was all poetry. Which I – for the most part – lack. There is still more to do, to figure out if I even have the option to give a reading somewhere. For all I know, I am pondering whether or not to do this – when there isn’t a place to do it at all.

But that’s where I’m at. It’s been in the background of my head space for a few weeks. Should I? And if I should? Could I? Where, when how, etc. I just don’t know.

-DMW

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