Every month, an open mic night is hosted on the first floor of Newman Library. Poems and short stories are presented from writers all across Virginia Tech’s highly talented campus. They share their work for the enjoyment of an attentive audience, an hour and a half of art that reminds the listener of all the styles, genres, and emotions that the written word can encapsulate. However, once a semester, open mic night is dedicated to hilariously reminding us that not all first drafts are perfect and all aspiring writers begin their creative journey from humble origins. This is Cringefest and it is beautiful.
Last night, the audience was delighted with old journal entries about the certifiably worst day ever, horribly awkward but strangely eloquent Tinder conversations, and an email chain moonlighting as a Jane Austen novel. As the moderator, Beejay Silcox, said into the reverberating microphone, “This is a safe zone to share some really weird writing.” And while listening to unintentionally hilarious phrasing in outlandish fairytales with little plot consistency is side-splittingly funny, it is also perhaps the most important exercise in humility a writer can engage in.
Cringefest offers a chance to laugh at your past work, writing that was probably judged very good at the time. As the old proverb goes: “Laughter is the best medicine.” Laughter is a great stress relief in the lead up to the last weeks of the semester but it is also a reminder for writers to stay humble. Writers are the greatest contradiction of themselves: they can be highly confident, perhaps even conceited in the quality of their work, but then, only moments later, they are crushed with crippling self-doubt (and I am speaking from experience). Standing behind a microphone, in front of a room filled largely with strangers, divorces writers from any ego. The point is to remember why you, the writer, started putting pen to paper, finger to keyboard in the first place: to have fun. And what’s more fun than laughing?