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Use Your Voice

August 30, 2010

via Sassistas

A little bit of writing advice touted by various writers  is to read your work aloud. Reading aloud is supposed to point out problems with flow and phrasing you might have otherwise missed.

If you’re like me, you’ve probably thought this advice sounded like a good idea but never got around to trying it. At first, I thought it was a little bit embarrassing. The appeal of writing for some people is you can do it by yourself and sometimes not show anyone at all.

I don’t like the sound of my own voice and sometimes feel a bit weird reading out some of my work, especially if there are things that are a bit personal or I’m opening up more than usual. As I’m reading a certain line, I’m also thinking how the audience is reacting… all in the same moment.

I haven’t read aloud much of my fiction to proof read it pr pick problems, but I have been experimenting a bit with open mic performance poetry.

A good friend and fellow socialist, Santo Cazatti has been doing spoken word stuff for a fair few years now and after he invited me to one of his open mic nights, I brought along one of my own poems.

Sure, it was nerve-wracking at first. But with a bit of a kick in my voice that made me sound more confident than I was, the audience seemed to like what I read and so I came back again. I’ve been going for a few months now and it’s a really nice turn in my writing ‘career.’

It builds confidence in my writing, gives me feedback and connects me to other writers to relate and talk to. It also means my work is actually getting out there, albeit to a limited audience.

An added bonus, I’m writing more and penning poetry. I’ve only come back to poetry this year and needing to have something to read each fortnight means I kind of have a regular deadline to produce new work. I think this ethic has even passed on to my fiction writing.

Writing with how it sounds in the forefront of my mind has changed the way I write. I think more about rhythm and beat. I do a bit of this in prose as well now. I think it gives me more of a unique voice.

Poetry also works a little bit better if it’s cryptic. Whilst I love to sometimes be explicit and blunt in what I say, sometimes it works better if you’re more descriptive in the way you talk about things, rather than spelling it out. In prose writing, this means I’m more comfortable showing and not telling.

There are open mic nights all around Melbourne and in a lot of other cities in Australia. I’m sure there are others all around the world if you do a bit of searching. It’s really worth getting up and having a go. Most of the events I’ve been to are full of encouraging poets and wordsmiths who make the environment less nerve-wracking. It’s not really a competition (except for ‘slams’)

And if you can’t find a real life event, there’s the internet. Services like audioBoo have made spoken word and performance poetry more accessible now and it’s easy to set up an account and record your stuff at home then spread it to all corners of the globe like you would with fiction or poetry on your blog.

I also run an open mic night for the internet called SpokenSunday where writers record their pieces on services such as AudioBoo and then post a link on twitter with the tag #SpokenSunday. It’s easy to play along.

Your voice is a powerful tool that can shed new light on your writing if you’re willing to give it a go. It might only be embarrassing the first time.

Benjamin Solah is excited to read his poem tonight; it’s all about the possibility of a certain someone becoming Prime Minister and it’s called ‘Septic Tank’ which ought to give you an idea of where he stands on the matter. You can read more of his stuff at Benjamin Solah.

4 Comments
  1. August 30, 2010 1:53 am

    Performance poetry is really interesting, I loved the first slam I saw (made the rounds of facebook). I suffer from horrendous stage fright though, so I don’t know if I could actually do it myself! Would love to go to an open mic night, just to watch though!

  2. August 30, 2010 4:20 am

    I really love reading poetry outloud. I find it hard to do at open mic nights and tend to stick to anonymous chat rooms…kinda lame. But my poetry sounds much better read out…

    Also about using it as an editor… i was studying with a friend who uses her mac computer to read out words for essays etc to see if it sounds alright (shes non-verbal) i saw it working so well that now for my essays i do that and its SO much easier! it means that even when ur at the end of an essay, exhausted and over it, u can get the pc to do it for you! and you can hear if it sounds wrong! brill!

  3. August 30, 2010 7:12 am

    Try solos small groups or everybody speaking in unison. Poem

  4. August 31, 2010 10:25 pm

    But a famous love poem by a modern poet may appeal to a younger person who likes a less formal tone. Ebony Poems

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