Over the past few months I have been working hard on a novel that has been trying to free itself from me in a host of ways over many years. I finally feel like I have the right vehicle to tell the story and I’ve worked every day to progress it. Whether it’s been ten minutes between bouts of remote learning, or online teaching, or glorious three hour stretches when I only have myself to worry about. I have shown up and written, something, every single day this year.
Just the fact that it is now a habit for me to write everyday is something I celebrate.Me. 2020
One thing I’ve always known as a teacher but have rarely put into practice as a writer is verbally rehearsing my words. I’ve read things out loud to myself to see how they sound but what has been truly illuminating this year has been reading to someone else.
Every Saturday evening I pour myself a large glass of red wine, patter downstairs to the front room where the modem is located (because the NBN is the actual worst and wifi barely works in certain parts of our house) and set myself up for a FaceTime call with my friend and fellow writer, Kate. Each week we read a part of our work to one another and it is remarkable how insightful this simple process is. Knowing someone you trust is listening, somehow highlights the areas that you stumble over in a way that reading to yourself doesn’t seem to do.
Yes we give each other feedback; what we loved, what perhaps didn’t hit the mark as well, but it’s more of a discussion. And what it often does is make clear where our writing hasn’t detailed our thoughts enough. You don’t get this discussion when you read to yourself because, as the author, you have ALL of the background knowledge on your characters, their needs and desires, tucked inside your mind. Our audience does not. So when Kate says to me, ‘would he really say that?’ and I respond, ‘yeah he would because A, B and C’, it’s apparent then, that I’ve not written those reasons clearly enough into my character.
In classrooms we readily offer opportunities for our students to read their work to a partner and hear important questions from an audience member, but we’re less inclined to do this for ourselves. Perhaps it stems from the fear that is so common among creative people, that putting our work out there for discussion will result in us being rejected, laughed at or ridiculed. But if you have someone you trust, perhaps someone who is on a similar writing journey to yourself, as Kate and I are, then cultivating a trusting, productive and beneficial environment is easy. And so worthwhile. In this strange, strange year that I chose to focus on my growth as a writer, I have found reading my work to Kate, possibly the most worthwhile venture of all.
It’s been a short and sweet post today my writing friends but a handy tip I wanted to share with you all. Until next time, enjoy your tea and your writing xx
Image Courtesy of Sam Manns via Unsplash.com