I go to open mic nights whenever I get the chance, and, most times, I read something I’m not happy with.
In Limerick we have three regular open mic nights dedicated to literature; the Limerick Poet’s Society; On The Nail; and Stanzas. There is also a smattering of irregular activities, ‘poetry-friendly’ open mics, and a whole bunch of readings available within bus/driving distance.
All told, if you wanted to, you could probably make three open mics a week.
Now, three a week would be a lot. If you could manage three a month you’d be doing very well. And if you happened to read something new at each of these, you’re either doing veeeery well, or are terrible. Quantity is funny like that.
I’ve been to a fair few Open Mics in the last couple years and I almost always read something I’m not happy with because I recognise there are two ways to use an Open Mic.
On the one hand, it’s nice to get platitudes, back-slaps and polite applause from fellow writers. It’s a good ego boost to get a nod from people you admire, and there’s a thrill in getting up and having the courage to read something you wrote.
And there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s a totally valid reason for reading.
But it can be a lot more than just a boost, if you want it to the mic can be the Public Work Station of Writing.
Often when you write a poem or a story or a whatever, one has a tendency to think THIS IS THE BEST THING EVER. Not even the Best Thing *I* Have Ever Written, but the BEST THING THAT HAS EVER BEEN.
There is a euphoria that comes from creating which is almost as strong as the melancholy of stoppered work. This euphoria clouds our judgement and what we have written is often not The Best Thing Ever, but An Ok Thing That Prob Needs a Bit of Work.
I use Open Mics within the life cycle of my editing because once I present my work to other humans all the flaws shine out like a bare arse on the motorway or a bad metaphor.
Now, maybe you are thinking Why would I read flawed work? But here’s the thing: all work has flaws. What you want is to get it to the Best Place It Can Be.
Open Mics allow you to show off your work and get an ego boost, and that’s ok. We all do it. It’s lovely. Life is hard and we need to take those little moments of victory where we can.
But it can be more than that. Find something new in the reading. Judge the reactions. Talk to people afterwards and see if they got it.
I guess that’s why we always come here. To get better.