Saturday, September 23, 2006

'I Have Always Trusted This Voice':
On Reading & Writing as a Listener

'Ever since I was first read to, then started reading to myself, there has never been a line read that I didn’t hear. As my eyes followed the sentence, a voice was saying it silently to me. It isn’t my mother’s voice, or the voice of any person I can identify, certainly not my own. It is human, but inward, and it is inwardly that I listen to it. It is to me the voice of the story or the poem itself. The cadence, whatever it is that asks you to believe, the feeling that resides in the printed word, reaches me through the reader-voice. I have supposed, but never found out, that this is the case with all readers—to read as listeners—and with all writers, to write as listeners. It may be part of the desire to write. The sound of what falls on the page begins the process of testing it for truth, for me. Whether I am right to trust so far I don’t know. By now I don’t now whether I could do either one, reading or writing, without the other. My own words, when I am at work on a story, I hear too as they go, in the same voice that I hear when I read in books. When I write and the sound of it comes back to my ears, then I act to make my changes. I have always trusted this voice.'

--Eudora Welty, from her Harvard lecture series, later captured in the book One Writer's Beginnings. You can read more about the formidable Ms. Welty here.

3 Comments:

At 10:12 AM, Blogger Daniella said...

John,

Reading aloud something I wrote is often the test that I use to see if I like it, if someone else might also appreciate the sound of it.

Rewriting and moving the words on the page like candy pieces in a chocolate box, looking for the best descriptive word, the most honest, the unreal that will captivate or repel and project a sense of being there with me on the page.

 
At 10:34 AM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

The eye only catches part of written language, Daniella. The ear takes in the full symphony. So I'm glad you subject your writing to the listening test. I think everyone should.

 
At 6:23 PM, Blogger Daniella said...

You do have a way with words, why don't we write a book together? It would be so much fun.

 

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