Following yesterday’s blog post, a fellow writer of Young Adult fiction replied that she always reads her dialogue aloud after writing it. That is, all around brilliant advice!
But what if you have a crippling phobia and inability to read aloud? Yes, yesterday’s blog post was about my fear of writing dialogue. Well, surprise! I’m also afraid of reading it out.
Why am I afraid? Well, I could give a few reasons and it all starts back at school. I was bullied throughout my school career, with very little support from teachers. It was however, a long time ago. But as a child being bullied, the last thing I ever wanted to do is draw attention to me, imagine!
“Yes – I spend most of my time in this school, trying to hide from the rest of the people in this classroom and what I really want to do, is stand up in front of them, have all of their attention devoted to me, and read aloud. This is my dream!” – No, it’s a nightmare. It’s the mental equivalent to walking onto the stage and realising that you’re naked, or something.
Now combine this desire to hide from the spotlight and some minor dyslexia. Imagine staring at the white board, concentrating as hard as you can and still seeing absolute gibberish. Difficult. Very difficult. You begin to believe that you are stupid. The words are making sense to everyone else, but for me, at times I felt that I was trying to read hieroglyphics. Brain did not compute.
Reading however, is brilliant. I loved reading, I lived for reading and still live for words. But as a youngster it was my escape and I read much more quickly than I could ever write, or speak. The result? My eyes and my mind are far further ahead than my mouth. Cue tongue-tied-twisters. Combine with innate fear of a. reading aloud in the first place and b. giving my classmates another reason to mock me and the results are a put of dread as the ‘turn’ to read goes around the room. The Turn is coming closer, creeping creeping, only three people away. I’d be so worried about having to read, that I’d start losing touch with the rest of the world and feel a bit spacey. I couldn’t breathe. The words would start to wriggle under my gaze, slipping over the page. Sweaty palms. The person reading is next to me. I’m next. What are they reading? At this stage there would be no understanding of the text or comprehension of what had just gone. Just a mad skim to the bit I was supposed to speak aloud before the inevitable doom arrived. My turn.
Moving onto University did wonders for my confidence. I was able to rebuild myself from the very shy and defensive person I had become. I was found and accepted by friends and it was wonderful. However, the fear of reading aloud had become a physical reaction as well as a mental one at this point. I studied creative writing, and so once a week during our seminar would need to read aloud my work. It was awful and still isn’t very pretty! Having to read once a week, every week made things a bit easier. But when it’s your own work? Well, at that point you’re definitely naked. I can’t help but feel that my work is a part of me. A creative output, it’s found form that I’m pleased enough to try and share with other people.
This year, I was privileged enough to have a piece acted out at RADA as part of my Masters. My classmates were elated to watch their pieces and each had a strong reaction to the work. The actors and actresses were also absolutely amazing. I couldn’t bring myself to watch however. Mine was a particularly personal and emotive piece. But all the dizziness came flooding back. There was nothing wrong with the writing and the feedback was astounding in its positivity. But this reading aloud thing – I think it’s really just not for me. Which might be a problem.
As my fellow writer replied to me on twitter, in order to publicise their work, writers are required to read aloud. Yikes! I hadn’t really considered this before. I’m of course, happy to work my socks off to publicise my writing and any future publications. But reading aloud?
Well, this is one fear I’m going to need to work on. All of the above are reasons, and possibly excuses as to why I have managed to avoid reading aloud for so long. Like my desire to avoid dialogue – I’ll need to get on with it won’t I? I’m thinking acting classes… Actors have to read dialogue, and after seeing professionals at work, their ability to read/act, in the same moment of being handed the script, is truly inspiring to watch. I’m not longer the shy person I was either. I am, by necessity confident and far more outgoing than I was.
All the advice also says, that you should never submit something without first reading it aloud. I need to at least be able to read my work to myself. This is my new mission, write, edit – read out. Put the words out there in the open air. Even if only the kittens can hear me.
I don’t think I’ll ever want to be on stage, but maybe if I push myself beyond my worry and so far beyond my comfort zone, then hopefully, possibly – sinking back to simply being able to read my work aloud to other people, and enjoy it will be comfortable; or at the very least easier.
What do you think? Do you have any tips and advice?
How necessary is it, for new writers to read aloud?