MONTPELIER, VERMONT: Do you read your prose aloud? If so, does it help you discover awkward turns of phrase, clunky transitions, or poor word choice? Since focusing on creative writing in the last year I have heard this advice often.
I heard it most recently here at my residency at the Vermont College of Fine Arts, recommended by my workshop co-leader Sascha Feinstein, an accomplished poet, memoirist and critical writer. One of my classmates had a few shifts in tense in her prose. The essay moved back and forth in time, but the shift from past to present didn’t always correspond, or came at abrupt times. Those glitches would be easier to spot and fix in the revision process, Feinstein said, if she read it aloud.
So having heard this advice with some frequency over the last year, why haven’t I followed it? I embrace other forms of speaking. I spent ten years as a solo singer. I’ve given dozens of speeches in the last decade. I sign up for every student reading possible here. I was the Master of Ceremonies for the student readings last night, and will co-host the talent show tomorrow night. (I’ll be channeling my inner Chuck Barris, right down to a low-slung hat.)
Perhaps I think of that as performing, which I’ll confess gives me an adrenalin rush. Reading my prose aloud is a private affair. It also forces me to listen to my own words, and perhaps there’s some resistance there, particularly given I’m supposed to read my work while still in progress.
But because my art-committed path means being open to new possibility, I will start trying this. The walls are pretty thin in this dorm, however, so while here I think I will read softly to myself.
Do you read your prose aloud? If so, how does it help you?
ABOUT THIS SERIES: As promised, I am posting occasional “nuggets” of wisdom I am acquiring here at my second residency in the MFA for Writing program at the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Previous posts include “Illuminating Your Story,” “A Window on Your Narrator,” “Creativity and Wasting Time,” “New Year’s Tradition,” and “Storytelling vs. Fragmentation.”