Reading words aloud makes them come alive
The late poet and writer Bill Holm spent his days teaching at Southwest Minnesota State University. When classes finished for the semester, he wrote his poems and stories and memoirs long-hand on the back of the memos he received at school. Interestingly, he was a gregarious soul who often welcomed people into his house but continued to write at the kitchen table even as he engaged in discussions with visitors.
But for many of us, writing is a solitary activity. Oh, sure: ideas pop into conversations. Careful, committed writers take note of the idea on whatever scrap they have handy. And that scrap becomes useful when the writer is, yet again, sitting before a blank screen or page.
Unless you are/were Bill Holm, sitting alone is the typical writer’s fate.
This is not to say writers must be loners or introverts. Those are not necessary conditions, although they do often fit together.
Written words need an audience
But creating is only one part of writing. Yes, it seems like the biggest part of writing, doesn’t it? Creating and the aura around creating are certainly the most celebrated bits of writing.
But another part of writing is reading. Specifically, getting read. And that requires publishing, in one form or another. At its essence, publishing is getting read by someone else. And for all the (quite true) advice about “just sitting down and writing” and “writing = butt-in-chair time,” it seems to me there is still a missing piece: the reader at the other end of the writing. Written words need to find and land on their audience.
Reading words aloud brings perspective
Here is a place where writers might learn something from copywriters. Copywriters have deadlines. They have people who expect copy at a certain time and often deliver it verbally—read aloud by the copywriter to the client.
Something happens when writing is read aloud to an audience. The text itself tends to shape and reshape, and the writer hears it differently because of the people listening. The writer cannot help but see things differently when another person is also hearing the copy.
Many will say that some of their best writing happens during revising. I agree, especially after having read something aloud to someone else and seen their reaction. It can be thrilling. Or depressing.
Butt-in-chair time is essential for writing. But sending your writing out, scary though it might be, is equally crucial to hear how the ideas land and to revise with creativity and gusto and possibly increased motivation.