I’m just back from St. Louis, MO, where I taught an all-day food writing workshop for about 70 people.
(The sold-out Food Media Forum came about after Stephanie Pollack of The Cupcake Project invited me to teach. Then it morphed into a 2-day conference. My workshop was the most elaborate I’ve done yet, with coffee to order, wine at lunch and a guy who pedaled in on an ice cream cart during the break.)
I like to start the day with writing prompts, while people are fresh (as opposed to after wine at lunch). I ran around the tables asking for volunteers to read. Some people were so nervous that they shook. Some stammered. Some hesitated. Some even tweeted about being nervous:
Robyn Wright of Robyn’s Online World was the first to read her writing out loud, and the crowd applauded. She wrote about being nervous on her blog:
Robyn did a super job. She used a simile and a metaphor, two of the writing techniques I emphasized (“like a fishing lure” and “tasteless rubber blob”). You’ll find lots of action verbs in her writing too — like gouged, plunged and ripped — a technique that amps up writing and moves readers forward in the story.
As a teacher who loves class participation, I’m interested in why this happens. It’s interesting that some people can put their work out into the world but be so sensitive about reading it aloud. Perhaps the issue is that most writers are introverts. (Here’s a cool TED video about the power of introverts.) It’s hard enough to write a little essay on demand, but then you have to read it, unedited, to a group of your peers.
But that’s a speculation. I’d prefer it if you just tell me. Why do you think people are afraid to read in class? Is it about mispronouncing words or stumbling over them, or more about whether your peers will think what you wrote is lame?