Why bloggers should perform their writing

Reading your writing out loud is generally a good thing to do, whatever the medium, genre or format. It helps you understand the rhythm of your writing and, more often than not, it helps you discover punctuation and grammar glitches that you might not otherwise have noticed.
Spoken word events are popular the world over with aspiring poets and budding prose writers. And I know that a lot of people who read this blog have their roots in creative writing and may well have read their work at open-mic nights.

But what about you (us) bloggers? In fact, what about journalists, non-fiction writers and all the other wordsmithery that goes on away from the literary world?

Well, I’m here to tell you all to stop being shy and get out there with your work. From my experience of performing at and organising spoken word events, so long as your writing is able to hold an audience, it doesn’t matter what medium it’s in.

Good writing is good writing and that’s all an open-mic crowd wants to hear.

But what’s in it for me?

Good point. But then really, what’s in it for creative writers either? I’m set to see a literary agent or publisher offer someone representation or a book deal on the back of a reading. In fact, I’m yet to see a literary agent or a publisher attend a spoken word night that wasn’t part of a major festival (though I’m sure it happens).

The truth is, creative writers perform their work because it helps them guage an audience’s reponse. It also forces them to think about the structure of their work; the natural, or otherwise, ebbs and flows of their writing.

I honestly believe that reading your work to a live audience can tell you as much about a piece of writing as several days, even weeks, of internalising and deliberation.

What if it all goes wrong?

Well, that’s very pessimistic of you. But yes, you could fall flat on your face. You might get an audience of literary snobs who, when it comes down to it, don’t know their over-writerly arses from their over-writerly elbows. And they might turn their noses up. But who cares? You’ve had the gumption to get up and do your thang and if they don’t like it, that’s their problem.

Over the last couple of months I’ve been to a couple of spoken word nights and twice read posts taken directly from this blog. On one of those occasions I also read the first chapter of my novel, but the other time I was just a blogger with a thing or two to say about the writing process.

And I found it useful. If I went back and wrote those posts again, I might change a few things. But perhaps as important, I got just the same buzz out of performing as I do when I read my fiction. Plus the audience seemed to dig it.

I’m still here. Nothing terrible happened. You should give it a try.

  1. This is a great topic Iain and was something I came across at the recent London Book Fair.
    The topic was comparing the growth in digital goods in both the writing industry and the music industry.

    The idea was that music was becoming more accessible, musicians made more efforts to focus on the experiences like gigs and live shows.

    The Book Fair made a good point that its not as easy for writers, in that writing is quite an ‘introverted’ and ‘personal’ experience – where not all writers have the presentational skills.

    It’s an interesting area and I think we will start to see more authors doing as you mention here and performing to audiences more.

    I don’t want to plug but a project I am working on at the moment called MeeQi.com actually embraces everything in this article.

    Great and topical post

  2. […] Have you ever performed non-fiction to an audience? Is it something you’d ever consider? Let us know your thoughts and/or experiences in the comments section. […]

  3. I’m contemplating the value of recording my blog posts as I read/perform them. I can see the obvious benefits for me. I’ve also seen in the past how the anticipation of speaking what I’m writing helps out my writing.

  4. Iain,
    Absolutely coolio! Such a great idea. I know that something like this would help tremendously in terms of building confidence and finding a new outlet for creativity.

    I do believe I’ll give it a try – the dog is damned tired of listening to me…

    Cheers!

    George

  5. @Chung It’s true, not all writers have the presentation skills, but then they never will unless they practice. It’s about confidence and projection, both of which can be developed in time. Glad the post was pertinent for you!
    @Nick I think your writing would lend itself very well to performance. I reckon you’d have gone down a storm at the now defunct Words Aloud.

    @Ryan Just go for it and see what you think. Have to admit, I considered doing audio versions of all my posts on here, but decided it would probably take a bit too long for my liking. Good for accessibility though!

    @Tumblemoose Give the dog a break and get searching for your nearest spoken word night! In seriousness though, these things can be a mixed bag, so I recommend going down just to watch first, so you can check out the vibe.

    That’s right, I used the word ‘vibe’. Keep the comments coming folks!

  6. I’ve volunteered reading to children at a library, but that was as far as I’ve gone with it. I’m painfully shy so I doubt I would ever consider performing non-fiction to an adult audience. 🙂

  7. Another interesting piece Iain.
    I always read my stuff out loud to make sure it sounds right. Never considered performing any of it though. But I have thought about recording my blog posts as podcasts, which is kind of the same thing I suppose… kind of.

    Nice use of the word “Writerly” too. I knew it was a real word ;0)

  8. @MrUku Yep, reading out loud is good and a fairly common piece of advice. Performance is different though – you attach an emotion to a misplaced comma because you feel daft when you stumble over it. You don’t forgive yourself so easily.
    Above all, it’s enormous fun.

  9. […] read your work out loud to improve the rhythm of your writing and listen for problems. Heck, even I’ve suggested it for bloggers – although that was specifically reading to an […]

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