INSIDE THE ART, CRAFT AND BUSINESS OF WRITING for Film, TV, Books, Stage, Print or Digital Media (with Particular Attention to Comedy)
“The human brain is a wonderful thing. It starts working the moment you are born and never stops until you stand up to speak in public.” – George Jessel
Maybe, in your mind, you’re exclusively a writer, and definitively not a performer. Or maybe you are a performer. Or could be. Or secretly want to be. Even if you don’t consider yourself a performer, consider some of the advantages to writing out loud (in addition to writing words, of course, not instead of).
If you’re an author, you’ll be making public and, we hope, media appearances when your book is published. If you’re a script writer, you’ll be pitching projects to executives, producers and/or in the writers room. If you’re a journalist, you have to pitch your story to editors. Those are all performances. This is the age of Youtube. Almost everybody goes on camera eventually, so why not get used to it now?
It’s a great marketing asset if you can deliver your material to a live audience as well as on the page. It certainly worked out for David Sedaris, Truman Capote, Mark Twain, Charles Dickens and many other writers who became known (and paid) for their public appearances.
12 or 13 Reasons to Perform Your Writing
When you perform your original material on stage, you can…
1. Develop a more compelling ‘voice’
2. Learn your own natural rhythms
3. Road-test material and ideas
4. Get immediate feedback from drunken strangers
5. Connect with a creative community & potential collaborators
6. Become less precious about your material
7. Access your sub-conscious
8. Entertain others
9. Create new fans
10. Build your ‘platform’ as an author
11. Get paid
12. Stand instead of all that incessant sitting
And, if you’re frightened by the idea of going onstage and reading your material to the public, or even worse, going onstage and riffing on ideas that aren’t even written out, then add…
13. Overcome your fear of public speaking
In any decent-sized city or college town there are probably reading nights, spoken word shows and/or storytelling events at theaters or clubs where you might be able to get STAGE-TIME. If you can’t find one near you, maybe you could even organize your own event. Not to mention volunteering at a local organization or appearing at a benefit for an organization that relates to your topic or background.
If you have the guts to get onstage without knowing exactly what you’re going to say, I salute you. It’s a great, noble, and often very productive, practice. But please, RECORD IT. You’ll probably never listen back, and if you do you may be horrified at the ‘um’s, ‘uh’s, stutters and false starts (not to mention how high, flat or nasal your voice sounds). You also might strike gold with a spontaneous riff or comment and if it’s recorded you can go back and transcribe exactly what you said. If it isn’t recorded, well… it was fun while it lasted.
If the idea of performing your material onstage paralyzes you with dread, you don’t have to do it. Maybe the mere idea of it can motivate you to get back to your desk and do some writing safe from the glare of the lights and the roar of the crowd.
I also want to stress that if your material is going to end up on a page or screen, you also have to put in plenty of time at the desk/keyboard. Writing out loud is a great SUPPLEMENT, not a stand-alone method (unless it’s for performance, in which case you might do little actual drafting of words on screen/paper). Otherwise, work on screen/paper before AND after working out loud. If you don’t want to go onstage (or in addition to that), here are 3 other ways of writing out loud:
A) BUDDY SYSTEM: Read your material to a friend, coach or writing buddy. The act of speaking your words aloud itself helps you feel the rhythms of your writing, and if your Listener’s interest flags make a note of where in your material it happened and think about how that section could be stronger, funnier or more compelling.
B) SELF-STUDY: Read your material into a voice recorder, video camera or the built-in camera on your computer. If you stumble over a passage, consider cutting or rewriting it.
C) GROUP DYNAMICS: A workshop (like the transformational and wildly-productive Comedian’s Way Workshop in LA) can combine a safe experimental environment with supportive fellow travelers. Writing Groups can perform this function, but can also go wrong when agenda diverge or comments are non-productive.