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How your audience can feed your writing soul

This weekend, my writer’s soul was nourished and fed. I gave a poetry reading at our local artsy coffee house, the Poulsbohemian, with two other poets—author and teacher Bob McAllister and Bill Mawhinney who runs the Northwind Reading Series in Port Townsend.

I was honored to read with these two prolific and treasured poets and they’re part of the reason I had such a great experience this weekend. But there was another reason the night stood out for me as the best reading I’ve ever given—the audience.

When I read, I like to take turns reading from my pages and glancing around the room at the faces in the crowd. My intent is to tune into their energy and take them for a ride with me. My goal is to entertain and move my audience.

Last night, I have to admit I was a bit tired when I arrived. But as soon as I started reading, I could literally feel the audience’s intent—they leaned forward, their eyes were open, they followed my words and wanted more. It felt as if they had all dialed into the same static-free channel at the same time. I’ve given readings before but this was the first time I felt the audience was really hungry.

As they tuned into my words, I found my energy increasing and my intention to entertain and move them poured forth. I kept thinking that this must be what live theater feels like when the audience is dialed in. It’s hard to describe but it felt like something magical was taking place—an exchange of energy where both sides were being fed.

The evening left me inspired to write more and better poetry; to keep honing my craft and bring my words to the next level.

I can close my eyes anytime and feel that energy again. I can ask myself, “What can I give my audience? What experience do I want them to have?”

You don’t have to give a poetry reading to be similarly inspired in your own writing.

Just close your eyes and imagine the audience for your work-in-progress. Imagine your audience reading your words on the page and ask yourself—what do you want your reader to feel? Picture them reacting to your words. Take your time. Develop a detailed, sensory image that you can return to again in the future.

Now, open your eyes and write from your white-hot center.

Image of Kim Harrison: lev radin/

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