Julie's Quest

Hello, and welcome to my blog. My blog is about the trials and tribulations of writing, where we celebrate successes and commiserate our near misses. We tell it like it is here and will do our very best to help you on the road to being published and pick you up after the rejections (they will come!) Whether you are a professional or amateur writer you will find something useful here.

I hope you enjoy reading my posts and will visit again soon.

Happy Writing

Julie Phillips - freelance writer - member of the Association of Freelance Writers - member of the Society of Authors

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Dentists and writing groups

I had an unfortunate experience at the dentists yesterday. Well not so unfortunate as bizarre really. I don't like going to the dentist. I'm okay if it's just for a check up but this time I was there for a filling. It started off okay. She gave me the injection in my gum - now I hate injections, especially in my mouth, so I was expecting trouble (ie my inner child bursting out and making me clamp my mouth shut as she approached my mouth.)But no, I behaved myself and with a little hand squeezing and tapping of my foot I managed to get through that bit fairly well.

Great I thought, as I lay there in the chair, staring at the ceiling, waiting for my face to go numb, that's the hard part over. We waited. And we waited. Then we waited some more. No tingling, no numbness. So in went another injection. And we waited and we waited. We talked a little about the weather, and we waited some more. Still nothing.

Now I don't mind admitting that I was getting freaked out by this time. Why wasn't my face going numb? I mean it was tingling and the right side of my face did feel different to the left, but only marginally. Normally the dentist whacks enough in there to numb an elephant from the trunk down and I normally go numb very quickly - but not today. She was just about to suggest that I needed a third injection when rain stopped play (I burst into tears) and refused to go any further. There was no way she was going to get that needle anywhere near my gums again - at least not on that day. So I came home expecting the minute I set foot through my door my face would go numb for the rest of the day, but it didn't and I can't work out why!

Then I went to the hospital for my annual field eye test. It was going so well. I'd got there twenty mins earlier and within five mins I had my eye patch on and I had my chin on the chin rest in the right position and I was staring at the white blank screen, or rather the orange light in the center, ready to play space invaders as I call it. But no. Something was wrong. I was merrily pushing the button every time I saw the flashing lights but the computer wasn't picking it up and it said I'd failed the test. At first I thought ruddy hell I'm going blind! But I knew I'd seen lots of lights and was definitely pressing the button. I was repositioned three times and three times the computer said NO! Then she got her colleague in but the same thing happened. So I was sent home and I have to go back at a later date to try again. The machine was apparently working fine before I used it! Ooooops! My body rejected the anaesthesia at the dentist and my eyes broke the field vision machine - not a productive day! But there must be a poem or story in there somewhere. Write what you know and all that.

But today was the Wrekin Writers' meeting and despite nine of our members being off on retreat in Wales we had a decent turnout of 16 people. We read out our chairman's challenges from September (the winning three about if we could invent an Olympic sport what would it be,) And we read out the one that's to be judged this month about cliches. I always seem to interpret the challenge in a different (not wrong way but slightly unhinged way!) so I was reluctant to read mine out. But I did. I haven't done the challenge for a few months so even though I found it difficult I had a bash but I don't think it'll be a winner as I fear I may have misconstrued the challenge title - but hey ho, I tried!

There were some rumblings from across the room, when we had a read around of some member's work that some other members couldn't hear what was being said. I always feel uncomfortable reading out and to be quite frank after what was said today about people not speaking in a 'loud' voice or rushing through what they are reading out, I won't be reading anything else out.

It's all too easy for these confident people who are used to speaking and who aren't afraid of the sound of their own voice to sit there and say they can't hear what people are saying. Granted a couple of our group do have hearing problems and I sympathise. I know what's it like to have hearing problems having suffered myself. But it takes someone like me, and several other more quietly spoken, nervous readers in the group a lot of courage to read our work out. And what really doesn't help is other people, after you've read out, having a go at your reading style and your quiet voice or rapid delivery of speech. Now I know it wasn't saidto be difficult or unkind, and it wasn't me he was talking about, but all it does is make us not want to read out again! I wonder how they would feel if we stood up and said that we found their confidence and booming voices and criticism of our reading aloud voices intimidating and off putting?

The size of the room and the seating arrangements have something to do with it, but also people's attitudes. The more vocal members of the group should realise that not all of us are confident speakers and if we were reluctant to speak before we are definitely not going to read our work out again! If people really can't hear then maybe they should move closer to the speaker. I suffer from Tinnitus and ear wax problems and if I can't hear the speaker over the tones, pops and crunching I have constantly in my ears, I move closer. With the best will in the world if someone talks too fast (I know I do) or very quietly, nothing is going to change that. And any way, we are writers not actors on a stage projecting our voices. If people pick up on that and criticise us for it it just makes us stutter and mumble, fumble over our words all the more. It's not in the least bit helpful. I don't want a situation in the group where only the more vocal and confident group members get to read their work out, because they've frightened the rest of us off! But I don't know what the answer is.

Yes, reading out our work in a group setting does enhance our writing, enabling us and others to hear how the piece sounds - flow etc, plus if we stumble over a word or phrase, the reader might too. But I do think that in a writers group the comments should be about the writing not the way it was spoken. And if people can't hear, move closer to the speaker. But don't berate us for our less than perfect speaking voices. I know I've blogged about this issue before, and last time it came up I seriously considered not going to the meetings for a while. But as I won't be reading out again it makes no odds - but I hope it doesn't put other new members off either. We are, of course, all entitled to voice our opinions and there will always be differences of opinion in any group, but I hope the less vocal members such as myself don't lose out.

What do other people in Blog Land think about reading their work out in a group setting? Does it worry you or not?

The next challenge is, "It was the 24th of December - I'm going to give it a go!

Happy writing

Julie xx


Lynne Hackles said...

The first time I read out to a group I was terrified. I gained confidence over the years (and now it doesn't bother me at all) but I know what you mean. One idea we used in our group was to swap work around so that the good speakers sometimes read out the poorer speakers work. One woman was an ex-actress and all her work sounded good but when I read it out, trying to decipher the text with bad spellings and very little punctuation, I knew how bad it really was.
On the other hand a very quietly spoken man had his work read out by the ex-actress and we all roared with laughter as it was so good, and we'd never noticed before. If you think about it you don't get poor readers on radio. You get the ones with good loud confident voices. Hand your work over to someone who enjoys the reading out. Get them to do it for you. And it's good to hear your work in a different voice.

Julie P said...

Thanks, Lynne. That's a really good idea. Although I might have to cringe in the corner at my work being read out by someine else. I think a lot of it is that I don't think my writing will be any good and people will laugh or be over zealous with their criticism - but I see how people commenting on my writing would be helpful

Julie xx

Suzanne Jones said...

You're so brave, Julie - there's no way I could read my work (or anyone else's for that matter) to an audience. I know I miss out on valuable critisism because of this.

Hugs for the dentist/eye test visits - hope it all works out next time.


Martin H. said...


I sympathise. The problem is rife in the workplace, where every organisation appears to have gone presentation mad(I feel a post coming on).

Lynne makes a good point about passing work to someone who is a good natural speaker. It can be quite a revelation to hear someone else reading what you've written.

I'm sure there are many writers who feel as you do and I might count myself among them.

Julie P said...

You know what I mean then. Suzanne. I go through phases really - sometimes I feel more able to read out my work than others. But I think I'd much prefer to have someone read it at their leisure than hash it up by reading it badly because of nerves.

I think the criticism is more valid and more considered if the reader has had time to read it through a couple of times and digest it. ome people are often too afraid to say what they really think about a piece of writing at the time it's been read out for fear of upsetting the author - whilst others just blast it out of the water with no concern for the writer's sensibilities! Was it you who read one of my stories too? I know someone on here did! But I don't mind doing that as it's amore personal and not so intimidating.

If a piece of writing isn't up to scratch then I'm not saying that the reader shouldn't say so - that doesn't help the writer - but I don't like having my work dissected in a group setting like that - I think one to ones are better, in my case anyway!

Yes, I hope I can gather the courage to get back to the dentist's chair! I'm not frightened of the eye machine because it doesn't try and stick needles into me!

Julie xx

Julie P said...

Thanks, Martin.

It's nice to know I'm not the only writer who hates reading their own work out! We are not forced to do it, I might add - but one has to think twice with so many confident writers and speakers in the group about reading your own work out or not!

But I might pluck up the courage, next time we have a read around to ask a more confident speaker to read mine out for me - then dive for cover under the table as it's slated!!

I also think I'll ask them to take some of my work home with them to read in private and see what they think. I'm squeamish about it but I think it's the only way I'm going to get the feedback I need from what people think about my writing - I might get a few more pieces of work published that way!

Swallow my pride and fear that all of my writing is a load of rubbish and just get on with it!

Julie xx

Lynne Hackles said...

Here's a way around it, Julie. Suggest a night where all the stuff to be read is put under a cover and each person dips underneath and takes a piece out to read. Or the boss there, whoever it happens to be, can be put in charge of shuffling work and handing it out. That way no-one will know whose work they have unless you go bright red and start fidgetting when you hear someone reading out your work. Practice an 'it's not mine. I've never heard this before' face.