Your Brain on Writing

I’ve been reading (devouring) Fire Up Your Writing Brainby 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

Photo by Steve Johnson from Pexels

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.”

5 replies
    • awritersalchemy
      awritersalchemy says:

      I used to practice this with students, too, just sitting with them and reading aloud often accomplished more than anything else in a one-on-one conference. Maybe it has to do with awareness being the path?


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