She’s writing a memoir of that year in Paris to remember. He wrote the academic journal article on book preservation for professional advancement. She’s finishing a personal essay on that anxious stretch of time during her pregnancy for fun. He described how his dreams inform his painting for that college application essay. She wrote a summary of a medical journal article for a school assignment. He’s putting the final touches on a collection of essays on family life that spans fifty years for posterity.
Writers bring their words to the page or screen for a range of reasons and in a multitude of forms. But with each project – work I’ve been witnessing from my private coaching clients – no matter what the mission, there is risk in the writing.
There’s so much at stake. Hurting someone’s feelings. Inaccuracy. Negative response. Rejection. Changing your mind. Putting your work out there. Getting your work out there, and not feeling seen or heard. Like taking a running leap from a lush green pasture into a white, open sky.
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Oh the power of a story told by the human voice.
I may be focused on words for the page, but for me there’s nothing quite as thrilling as hearing someone telling or reading a story.
Fond memories of bedtime stories (Goodnight, Moon and The Bundle Book come to mind) and hours listening to Burl Ives records may have something to do with it, but I think there’s more here. There’s something intimate about our voices. Something uniquely us.
And perhaps because I feel this way, I always encourage my writing students to read their work out loud. Even if there is no one in the room. Reading aloud gives the writer clues to her natural voice. The music of her voice. The rhythm. The pace. The intervals. The accents. The allegro and the non troppo.
When a writer trips over a sentence, this often means it’s one to revisit. Something about it isn’t working. On the other hand, when you are reading a passage and it just moves along gracefully, you just know how right it is.
The beauty of hearing your words is that you are listening to the sound of your soul. The words had to come out first onto the page, then into your ear. Which may sounds backward. But this is the artistry of writing. Making something out of nothing. The clay has to come first. Then we shape it.