Often people don’t recognize the value of their creative expression until they share it.
That’s why I host literary salons featuring my students and their work.
Something wonderful happens when you stand in front of an audience and share your creative writing. Hearing people laugh or sigh, knowing when you’ve got their attention—and when you don’t—provides invaluable information to writers. Reading in public is a great way to hone your ear and your instincts, but it also helps connect writers with readers/listeners, and hear first-hand the way(s) in which their work moves people.
I also host salons as a way of sharing and celebrating my students’ courage, talent, and growth. No one’s being judged or evaluated. We assemble in a spirit of camaraderie and fun. We eat. We drink. Students from one class listen to students from the other class read. Friends and family are invited. Or not.
The work ranges in style and subject matter. It’s funny, sad, outrageous, truthful, ballsy, imaginative, and heartfelt. My students excavate the depths and bring forward images, moments, events, and stories from their lives and from their imagination, which inspire the mind and delight the soul—though most of what my students read are works in progress. “Don’t get it right, get it written,” I tell my students, quoting James Thurber. Sure we fiddle with words once they’ve landed on the page, but perfection is not what we’re after here.
Reading for an audience offers my student the chance to stand in their truth. It’s empowering. Established and emerging writers discover strengths they didn’t know they had.
But it can also be daunting, especially when what you’re reading is intimate, or if your writing describes personal events you’ve never shared with anyone before. Here are a few tips I give my students before they read at my salons:
I’d love to hear from those of you who have attended my salons. What do you enjoy most about them? Did you read or were you a guest?
Last week in class, Amy, one of my writing students, said to a classmate, “Each day we have a choice: we can live with faith or we can live with fear. Though she didn’t know it, this was exactly what I needed to hear. I’d been having a rough couple of days, triggered by not having received recognition I felt I deserved. This set off an internal pity party hosted by my gremlins, who ransacked my guts and had me silently spewing self-doubt venom. I felt miserable, but wasn’t sure why. All I knew was that I was in “The Snarky Place” and couldn’t get out—until I heard Amy’s comment. Thank God for my classes—and my students, who teach me as much as I teach them.
It helps when I remember I have choices: I can choose to believe I’m not good enough or I can recognize and appreciate my gifts. I can think I’m alone in the world or realize I’m connected not only with every living thing, but also with the Source of all life. I can think I’m wasting my precious time here on earth or I’m doing exactly what I’ve come here to do. I can be compassionate or judgmental with others and myself. In every case the first thought listed in each set of choices makes me feel crumby while the second uplifts me. I don’t know about you, but I’ve had enough of feeling bad. I want to feel good—and contentment is well within my reach, something I can choose.
This is not a new thought. Eighteen-hundred-plus years ago Marcus Aurelius said, “A man’s life is what his thoughts make of it.” Thoughts create emotions, so it’s helpful to know what you’re thinking. It stagers me how often I’m oblivious. I “wake up” over and over again, not realizing I’d been “sleepwalking” through my life on automatic pilot. Feeling depressed, upset, or irritable is a sure sign I need to wake up and choose different thoughts. Again, this is not a new concept. Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t—you’re right.”
I choose to think I can do what my Soul urges me to do. I choose to relax and move forward with confidence and grace knowing I am divinely guided, and that fulfilling my dreams is what Spirit wants for me.
When I was at USM studying spiritual psychology, I asked myself if what I was learning was true. But what is truth? There’s no objective truth. Truth is what I make of it. What I create. What I choose. Fear had led me into a pit; love was the rope pulling me out.
At the end of the day, I ask myself this question: Have I done what I’ve come here to do? If so, I know I’ve been blessed with the gift of choosing love and faith over fear.