I’ve been reading (devouring) Fire Up Your Writing Brain, by Susan Reynolds (click on the title to go to her blog). Late in the book, Reynolds quotes Margaret Atwood on why a writer should read her own work aloud, a long-time practice of my own.
“Black marks on a page are like a musical score, they don’t come to life until they are being played. A score for violin is not actualized until somebody takes up a violin and plays the music. That’s when it turns back from paper and ink into music. Pages are like a magic freezing mechanism whereby you take a voice and you put it into a score on the page — it’s a score for voice, it always is — and it becomes actualized again when somebody reads it and turns it back into a voice.” –Margaret Atwood
Reading aloud is a great tool for self-editing, but I think this quote speaks, even more, to the alchemy of the writer-to-reader link.
I am trying to remember when I was first given the advice to read my work aloud. My poetry professor at the University of Washington, Nelson Bentley, used to tell us to, but I think it came before, in my very first literature class at Edmonds Community College. Pat Nerison had assigned a paper on the poems we had been reading, and she recommended that we read them aloud before we began writing. “I have roommates!” I protested. “Go in the bathroom and turn the water faucet on,” she said. “They won’t hear you.”