Get thee to an open mic
Lisa Martens writes about the ability of a writer to tittilate in the way a burlesque dancer does, with a wink here and a nod there, to draw the writer in. As I read, I thought of what burlesque, performance art, and writing have in common. We all want to draw our audience in, entertain them, and leave them, if not changed, at least with a broadened perspective. Burlesque broadens our perceptions of the feminine and sexuality. Performance art pushes our boundaries in whatever area of thought and experience the artist addresses.
As writers we take our audience on a journey, whether fictional or factual. During which we hope to educate, influence, or elicit emotions from our readers.
The difference is that, unlike stage performers, we don’t know the impact our words have, unless or until someone responds. If the responses aren’t comments in a thread, at least on Medium we know there is some reaction based on digital applause. But we don’t get a sense of what internal reactions we’ve sparked from claps on a screen.
Performers onstage get to see, sense, and experience audience interest and approval. We writers are sitting in our home, office, or favorite coffee bar writing arena, completely alone, even when surrounded by other writers in that coffee bar. (I’ve tried writing in real bars. That hasn’t gone so well.)
But what if we wrote on an actual stage, instead of sitting at our computers, phones, or tablets and writing what we hope will reach out from our screen and grab our audience? I picture a writer in a large storefront window with an audience gathered on the sidewalk. The writer bangs away on a computer, paces the floor, and hits delete. Hitting delete doesn’t have the same dramatic effect as jerking paper out of a typewriter, wadding it up, and throwing it across the room. The audience disperses and wanders away.
Our work is not designed to be a spectator sport. But there is one way we can reach out and grab our readers by the brain, and know their reactions. We can go to an Open Mic Reading. I’m at 13.17 in the video below.
I can hear you introverts saying, “Oh hell no, Carol. Why do you think I chose writing? Because I can do it alone!” I get that. I’m an extrovert, and I was still scared silly at my first open mic. But if we don’t get out and read our work aloud, we throw away a perfect opportunity to find our audience and gage their response.
In Austin, Malvern Books holds monthly readings. I went on Valentine’s Day, where the topic was, quelle surprise, love. I had just finished a diatribe on dating online. I laugh a lot at myself and my life experiences, so I thought the descriptions of my dates were funny. But, like in love, I needed external validation.
Dating Digitally. Wait. That Sounds Dirty.
Once again, I am supposed to be writing a screenplay and I am blogging instead. (Check out "How I Accidentally Wrote a…
The audience loved it. They ranged from Millenials to Boomers. Those who hadn’t dated digitally were few, but they laughed in disbelief at the shenanigans of guys I’d gone out with. Those who have done online dating, roared in empathy. Thank the Muses. And I left knowing that when I published the piece, somebody out there would laugh.