All writers know that sharing anything you create can leave you feeling deeply vulnerable, raw or exposed (or all of the above). Even the act of writing out something from inside you can stir up some pretty big emotions.
So sharing what you’ve written (at least to start with) probably won’t come easily, although it does get easier with practice.
Here are a few suggestions from a shy introvert about steps to sharing your poetry, and maybe even performing it live to complete strangers at a later stage.
Share your poetry with people you trust
Some people don’t really appreciate poetry and in time you will find like-minded writers and poets who will enjoy your poetry, but until then it might be helpful to explain to anyone you share your poetry with that you’re feeling a bit tender about it and would appreciate gentleness and encouragement.
Share your poetry when you feel comfortable
There’s no need to hurl yourself in at the deep end but don’t put off sharing until the nerves go away completely (as there will probably always be an element of that).
Note to those with perfectionist tendencies – you don’t have to wait till you are perfectly satisfied with something you have written before sharing it. Are you ever perfectly satisfied with anything? Don’t allow your perfectionist tendencies and inner critic to paralyse you to the point that you don’t write or share at all.
Find your tribe
Find people who like what you like, whether that’s spoken word, dramatic monologues, lyrical sonnets or experimental poetry. Reading, hearing, learning from and connecting with other creative people will help build your confidence in your own writing.
Take things at your own pace
If you’re just starting out and would like to take the step of sharing your poetry with the rest of the world but haven’t yet, then you know that at some point you’ll have to step outside your comfort zone. Well the good news is that the more your step outside your comfort zone (no matter how slowly), the larger your comfort zone gets. So take things at your own pace – you don’t need to talk yourself into performing to thousands of strangers if you’ve not yet shared with a friend – but challenging yourself to keep taking the next step is a good idea. Having an understanding friend to challenge you to take that next step (or babystep) outside your current comfort zone is very helpful!
Watch from the sidelines first
If one day you’d like to perform spoken word poetry, for example, then watch some other people doing that. One of the brilliant things about spoken word events moving online (particularly for introverts) is the invisibility it allows you while watching and learning. There is no expectation on you to click or hmm along with the performer, you can watch spoken word events back on IGTV anywhere in the world on your own terms and you can get used to spoken words events by observing with no pressure on you to participate.
Watch and learn
If you do start watching spoken word performances, whether that’s to a crowd in real life or on an Instagram live, you will probably pick up on lots of little interesting things the poet does, from audience interaction to the technicalities of language, rhyme or turn of phrase used within the poem itself.
Start thinking about how you could incorporate some of those techniques into your poems. You might find that when you look back over some of the things you have written, there are some obvious tweaks you could make to improve the flow, emphasise a point, or involve the listener in the poem.
If you suddenly lose confidence in a poem, don’t rip it up, just put it to one side. Remind yourself that it’s not reasonable to compare a poem you’ve written when starting out to a poem an established poet has written after X years of experience, growth and good old trial and error.
I’ve written some suggestions for finding inspiration here.
Don’t be intimidated, be inspired!
If you hear an amazing poem or watch a really powerful performance, don’t be intimidated, be inspired! That poet didn’t start out using language as skilfully or delivering a performance as polished as it is now. They were also beginners once and have been practising and growing ever since.
Get your message out
If you’re happy sharing your poems with a friend and would like to share your poems more widely, you have a few options. In a digital hashtag age, you are still able to share your spoken word poetry with others while never actually performing to anybody. You can always make a video with your poem and just share that on social media relevant hashtags so that people can find it easily. Spoken word relies on sound, rhythm, rhyme and so on, so you would need an audio element, but in order to share on social media such as Instagram or YouTube, you would need a visual element too.
If you are going to perform the poem straight to camera, I would suggest memorising it first. Having a video of something else and you performing the poem as the audio track works equally well and allows you to add the poem lyrics to the video and also read out the poem rather than memorise it.
Choose your audience
If you would like to share your poem in a live setting, then it’s good to choose a place (virtual or actual) where you feel comfortable. Having an event host or hosts who is/are friendly, welcoming and understanding makes all the difference and will set the tone for the event. This is where it helps to watch different events online or attend in person events even before you think about performing because it will give you a feel for the event atmosphere and how comfortable you might feel performing there. Have a look at The Mic spoken word events hosted by Osagie on Instagram (@osagie_osa) for an example of a host setting the tone for the event and making it a welcoming place with a safe and encouraging atmosphere.
Get into the habit of encouraging other poets and performers even if you think they’re so much further along the road than you that they probably don’t need it. And equally encourage those who are not as far down the road as you.
Anyone who expresses an interest in poetry is likely to be writing in some way and perhaps you could be the encouraging friend who challenges them to take that first step of sharing their writing or poetry or songs. You could be the one to draw someone in when they’re feeling on the sidelines, or to gently draw them out and give them the courage to take their next step, whatever that might be.
I’ve written more about being an encouraging presence here.
Forget the numbers
We tend to get obsessed by clicks, likes and visualisations and when you’ve just laid bare your heart, you’re feeling a bit raw and you’d just love a bit of encouragement, it’s easy to feel down if your poem doesn’t provoke as much interest as you’d like, particularly from friends.
Don’t give up! The amazing thing about poetry and the digital and hashtag age is that if it’s out there, people can find it and your message may reach someone down the road or across the world, 10 minutes or 10 years after you post it, and still speak deeply into their situation. So don’t worry if your friends and family don’t love everything you write! It’s not personal and that won’t stop your message getting to those who need to hear it.
Page not stage
If spoken word is not your thing and you’re all about written poetry then I’m very impressed that you made it down to here!
I’ve written some suggestions for those wanting to take the step of submitting poetry to literary magazines and journals here.
I’d love to hear your thoughts about these steps! What would you add for those coming along behind? If you’re just starting out, have these been useful? What else have you found helpful to keep in mind?