Facing up to the Spoken Word

downloadAccording to Eleanor Roosevelt, you should do one thing every day that scares you. That’s a great theory but unrealistic for most folk. But I do believe it’s a good idea to step outside your comfort zone as often as possible, or life would be pretty damn boring if you never challenged yourself to try something new.

So, with this ‘he who dares wins’ attitude, I accepted an invitation to read my work at a new spoken word event,  Woo’er with Words (WWW). The idea behind WWW is to provide a platform for writers and poets to perform their work in a relaxed and supportive setting. This type of opportunity is rare in Falkirk which doesn’t have an established literary scene although that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a huge amount of talent in the area. And this was proved to be true throughout the afternoon with a diverse range of entertaining and thought-provoking short stories and poems shared with the audience.

Bmi1dkVCUAIbwY0As I was born in Falkirk Royal Infirmary, I’m officially a bairn, the nickname for those born in Falkirk (or pronounced as Fawkurt if you’re local). It seemed appropriate then to deliver my first EVER public reading in my native town and in a café I’ve used for years. And for moral support, I had my wee sister, best pal and hubby there to cheer me on.

Although I’ve been writing for years, I’ve never read my work aloud in public, which is ironic considering public speaking is what I do for a ‘day job’. I stand in front of large groups of teachers training them in a maths resource and it doesn’t faze me in the slightest but ask me to read something I’ve written myself and my stomach churns.

It was the thought of baring my soul and feeling judged that made me nervous. And stupidly, I’d built the scenario up in my mind to be something to avoid rather than embrace.


Feeling the fear and doing it anyway

At work, I know from the evaluations that I’m good at holding an audience’s attention (not easy when the subject matter is numeracy and there’s nearly 400 PowerPoint slides to get through), so I needed to transfer my ability to ‘perform’ into reading my own work.

In the end, I LOVED it. And of course I now wish I’d put myself and my words out there a lot sooner. It was a much bigger buzz than getting a tick in the ‘excellent’ box on an evaluation form at work.  Having others compliment my writing was an amazing boost to my confidence and I’d like to thank Untitled for the chance to push my boundaries and achieve a long-term goal. It’s true what they say, FEAR stands for Fear Exceeds Actual Reality.

Do you enjoy participating in spoken word events or does the thought of public speaking make you break out in a cold sweat?

13 thoughts on “Facing up to the Spoken Word

  1. Well done for going for it: I’m not surprised your performance went down well. I’m sure (though you may not have felt it) all your professional public speaking helped your body – the bit that usually lets us down, the physical bit – know what to do. Hope it’s the first of many!

    • Thanks Isabel. You’re right about the body issues when performing, All those years of public speaking meant that I did have experience of ‘stage presence’ etc so it wasn’t as scary as I assumed it would be.

  2. Well done for facing up to one of your fears! As you know, I’m a poet and I’ve started to read my own work more regularly but I still feel terrified before an event. You’re right, it’s completely different, and so much more exposing, reading something you’ve written yourself but, as Isabel says, any previous experience will help – and the more you do it, the better you get at it. I think some nerves are always a good thing – on occasions when I haven’t felt as nervous, I’ve usually fluffed my delivery! Looking forward to hearing about your next event 🙂

    • Thanks Josephine. I feel a bit daft now for leaving it so long, especially as I genuinely enjoyed the experience. And you’re right about nerves, even in my ‘day job’ I still feel I need to get into the right frame of mind and get the adrenalin going – I can hear the Rocky theme tune! 😉

  3. I have recently embraced public speaking, but sharing my own creative writing is the most difficult. More comfortable talking about things I know a lot about … yes, time to step out of the comfort zone.

    • Hi Cynthia, It’s not easy is it? I can talk in public about anything really and hide behind the subject matter but baring my inner thoughts and feelings is a much harder task. All the best with sharing your writing. 🙂

  4. Great post, Helen.

    Very interesting to hear from someone who’s day job involves public speaking. Reminded me of a reading I attended a few weeks back with the actor and novelist John Lynch. He was asked which was more terrifying, waiting to go on stage to act in a play or reading his work in front of an audience. He said reading, hands down. It’s that thing of putting something you made out there, and putting yourself out there with it. It’s just so open. Maybe that’s where that sense of numbing paralysis comes from. Complete exposure of yourself and your work. People can suddenly see and hear and judge all at once. Such a frightening and wonderful experience. I always go in filled with dread and terror, and come out brimming with elation. I dont know if that’s down to the experience itself and the adrenalin of it, or just pure relief. All the same, I’ve never experienced anything else like it.


    • Thanks and great to hear from you Michael. You sum up the mixture of emotions exactly. It’s easy to hide behind another person’s words but when you do share your own and get a positive reaction there’s nothing to beat it. 🙂

    • Hi Rebecca, Thanks. It took me a long long time to pluck up the courage to read in public so I understand your reluctance. But I hope you try it as I bet you’d find it wasn’t as bad as you feared too. 🙂

  5. Well done, Helen! I’ve only read out my own writing on courses and it is a bit like standing there naked. And you’re right, there’s a big difference to presenting at work because that’s just the job; it’s not your ‘baby’ out there. But you enjoyed it which makes me think it must have gone well – fantastic!

    • Thanks Jackie. I’d also had experience of reading at workshops but that’s always been in a supportive group and is a much kinder environment than a bunch of random strangers. Luckily those strangers were kind too and the event gave me a real boost. 🙂

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