The Alchemy of Reading Your Words Aloud

To be a better writer, read your words aloud. — Mohsin Hamid

Sometimes writing can be such a solitary effort — hitting the keys of your computer, alone in a space of quiet. Words roaming from place to place within your mind. Silent. Without connection to an outside reality. Then you stop. Look at your text. Take a deep breath. And, speak life into your written creation. Your words pierce the air. You are at first embarrassed by their sound. You want to hide them again within your thoughts. But, you don’t. You continue to read aloud. The power of your words grows with each uttered syllable. At times you notice some of what you have written in silence needs revision as your words join “the real world.” You realize the resulting changes enhance not only your writing, but the meaning of your words. You understand what author Mohsin Hamid meant when he said, “To be a better writer, read your words aloud.”

I try to read aloud from my work each time I finish a few pages. I am almost always surprised by how that simple act leads to my rearranging and even changing much of my initial text. When the written word transforms into the spoken word, it’s as if a strange alchemy is performed. They take on an energy that they did not contain when merely written on the page. Base metal becomes gold.

I am lucky enough to be able to read my work through two writers’ group. They are both organized in my community. One involves members’ reading fiction or creative nonfiction while the other focuses on memoir writing. During the pandemic, we have been meeting on Zoom, but the opportunity to read our works aloud and receive support and “gentle” criticism is not diminished by the online environment. I highly recommend the joining of a writers’ group. I believe your writing will benefit. I know mine has.

I just returned from Cedar City, Utah, where I was privileged to read a short creative nonfiction piece of mine selected for publication in the Kolb Canyon Review, the literary journal of Southern Utah University. The event took place at the review’s release party held at the Southern Utah Museum of Art. To be part of a group of writers who read their poetry, fiction, or creative nonfiction works aloud to an attentive (and masked and social distanced) audience was inspiring.

I believe the act of reading my work aloud during this event, at writers’ group meetings, and even alone while at my computer, is making me a better writer, just as Hamid suggested.

by PortiaLily Taylor

Photo by Bud Anderson, PortiaLily Taylor reading at the Kolb Canyon Review’s release party (masked and social distanced, of course!)

4 thoughts on “The Alchemy of Reading Your Words Aloud”

  1. Oh yeah, writing by ear is almost as important by writing by eye, and reading words aloud really does help catch the inconsistencies that may have passed proofreading. It’s not good with homophones, though, lol. Anyway, thanks for this post!


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