I’ve written before about my great writers group–SWAG, Staunton/Waynesboro/Augusta Group of Writers–about how supportive everyone is, and how I’ve made lifelong friends from being a part of it. Wednesday evening was our monthly social hour and open mic night. This was also the first meeting after we got a nice spread in the Living section of our local Sunday paper. We had a full house of readers and listeners–and lots of first-time-at-SWAG readers. It was probably the best night we’ve had with lots of thoughtful work and lots of laughs.
Why are open mic nights important? I’ll admit when SWAG’s founder, Cliff Garstang, suggested last year that we start doing readings–out loud, in front of people–I was nervous. That’s a tough thing to do, to stand up amid acquaintances and a few strangers and read what you’ve written. And that first time last April, my knees were shaking, and my throat was dry. Afterwards, I remember wishing I’d had a writers group ten years ago when my collection of short stories came out. I did three readings and book signings back then, without a clue as to what I was supposed to do, and the feedback I got was that I read too fast for people to understand what I was saying. At SWAG, I’ve learned to slow down and get across what it is I’m trying to say, and that’s an experience I wouldn’t have had without SWAG.
So, doing open mic readings among friends can help build your confidence for when you’re on that book tour you dream about being on one day.
The other good thing about open mic is you pay a good deal of attention to the exact piece you’re going to read. We get five minutes, so the passage has to be tight, succinct, which means, beforehand, you’ll do some needed editing and revising you might not normally do. That’s always a good thing.
And here’s the best part–it’s great when open mic is over and someone in the audience comes up to you and tells you he or she enjoyed what you read and begins to ask questions about your work. You feel like an honest-to-God writer when that happens. It’s great.
Building confidence, honing your editing skills, and boosting your writer ego–that’s what you get from a writers group. Find one. Join one.