Two years after eighth grade I made the decision that my days of performing were over. Not that I had the chance to perform again during that time but, for some reason, the cringe burned in the back of my memory like an intrusive thought I couldn’t shake. You see, where other kids memorised classic poems to read as a part of our class ‘pizza and poetry night’, my eighth-grade self decided to read an original poem, titled ‘if pigs could fly’. Not only was it dedicated to an older boy I only knew from a distance, but I had props. Literal props which I held, swapped and threw into the audience (a suppressed memory I only remembered writing this). So, you can probably see how tenth-grade me vowed never to embarrass myself that way ever again.
However, when I heard about the QUT Literary Salon in my first year of a degree I was actually passionate about, I felt a spark. It was the same spark I had the day I decided I was going to perform an original poem in front of my class. It was something I knew I would love to do but stopped myself from submitting for the first two years of my degree in fear of embarrassing myself… again. What if I froze? What if I said something inappropriate? What if I blinked too much or grew to hate the poem I performed in years to come? But what if I regretted never doing it? And so, I did.
It was terrifying—it still is—the idea of reading your words in front of a group of people. Whether you know them or not there’s always something slightly unsettling about projecting words, not only into the universe but within earshot of someone else. Whether your writing is explicitly personal or not there are always intrinsic ties or experiences that make us doubt ourselves. Even the simple fact that your voice is the narrator to a story that has only been read in your head, by a critique group and possibly a tutor, is daunting enough. As pre-dispositioned over-thinkers, it’s easy to scare ourselves out of efficacious opportunities. So often as writers we doubt how important our words are compared to others and what’s been written before us. There are many internal dilemmas some of us need to overcome to take that step. Yet when it’s taken, ample opportunities arise, to not only grow as a creative practitioner but as a human in this unsteady world.
Through taking such actions and opportunities I’ve met failures and discouragements; I’ve also succeeded and discovered that nothing really is embarrassing if you don’t let it be. That the feeling of not doing something that excites you, only because it scares you, is worse than doing that thing. Performing my poetry (alongside other life decisions made in 2020) has taught me that if it scares you a little, it’s probably something you should be doing. Focus on the growth and liberating feeling you get from that action, rather than the what-ifs and embarrassment that only you create for yourself.
I am not the greatest writer or performer. My voice still shakes and becomes a soprano when I don’t want it to be, but that’s okay. Even the simple act of listening improves your own craft. Paying attention to how others hold themselves, asking about their stories, and keeping up with their journey online are all important opportunities. Some fellow writers that inspire me most I’ve met at the QUT Literary Salons over my degree. There will never be a better environment to perform your writing, meet fellow creatives, and build your professional portfolio in a unique way that will stand out.
Because now I have learnt that I should be proud of my eighth-grade self for taking that first step. Just as I am of my nineteen-year-old self for enrolling into a creative writing degree, and twenty-one-year-old me for submitting my poetry and performing it on stage. Because even in eighth grade I knew it was something I wanted to do. As terrifying as it may have been, it is also humbling, inspiring, and electrifying.
If you don’t want to just take my word for it, here are some thoughts from some of this year’s talented performers/contributors to the QUT Literary Salons.
“Creative practice, for me at least, is all about confidence and reading your work before others has to be one of the greatest ways to develop confidence. It’s unique for me as a writer to gauge feedback synchronously, i.e. hearing laughs when I say something I thought was funny, but wasn’t sure. That’s a pretty basic observation, but there’s certainly some emotional weight to it—especially considering this was the first fiction piece of this kind that I’ve had published. When you have something published to print, you assume that the editors thought it was good, but you don’t get the assurance that they got what you were trying to do, or if what you were trying to do was noteworthy. Hearing a laugh lets you know a joke landed as intended, and I’m certain that people who write more dramatic/tragic pieces can experience something similar in the facial expressions/engagement/quiet etc, of their audience.”
“How the QUT Literary Salon helped me with my creative practice is it gave me the confidence to put my work out there. Before the Salon, I had this massive anxiety that I wasn’t meant to be a writer. I didn’t think I had the talent or skills. So, when I got chosen, it was a huge boost to my confidence. Especially because it was the Pride Salon. Finally, having people come up to me and compliment my work was the cherry on top of the cake. The Salon has given me the courage to keep putting my work out there.”
“Reading for Lit Salon benefited my creative practice because it helped me to build confidence in my work and its impact. I know now that my writing has an audience and a place in the industry. It has helped me form a broader network of creatives who are familiar with my writing. The communal environment Lit Salon provides is energising and inspiring. Lit Salon motivates me to continue creating and polishing my existing pieces in order to return for ensuing salons.”
“Performing at QUT Literary Salon was a great opportunity to become more confident in my writing. It was great to hear the audience laugh at certain moments and applaud my work. I worked with the editors as they helped me with my script and performance. The experience was also really rewarding for my career; it was a chance to add something to the resume and show my involvement in the writing community.”
Madison Blisset de Weger
Sofija is an emerging writer based on the Sunshine Coast / Brisbane. She is currently in her final year of a BFA in Creative and Professional Writing at QUT. Her writing explores human relationships, the environment and feminism.
Follow her on Instagram at heavilycrazed and sofijaaaaaaaa.
Find her work in BabyTeeth Journal, F*EMS Zine and QUT Glass.