I get easily distracted.
This was just verified by the fact that I got up to retrieve the dictionary from the bookshelf (Yes, sometimes I like to look words up in the hardback book!), plopped it onto my antique library table to look up a word, realized there was a plain manila folder nearby that I meant to sort through this morning, so I opened it instead, deciding to scan an article (about attention deficits in fifty year olds?) and realized when I raised the printer lid, that I already had a document on there to scan.
“Out Loud,” Webster tells me, is legitimately two words even though I truly think it should be one word: outloud like aloud. “Aloud” looks rather pretty, but makes me think of fluffy summer clouds over multi-colored hills, which makes me hope for sunny skies to show up today, and there we are again, on a tangent.
The dictionary is back on the shelf, the scanner is working on the document(s), and I’m back to the topic at hand, which is that I’ve been practicing reading out loud.
I’m sticking with out loud versus aloud, because well, it sounds LOUDER to me. Aloud conjures up the notion of quietly murmuring to myself, words barely above a whisper, maybe saying a tranquil prayer. Out loud suggests a room-filling voice, heard wherever I project it.
Learning to understand words
Remember when you were a kid and learning to read, or if you’re a parent, think about first teaching your child to their Dr. Seuss. Recall that slow pacing, sounding out of words, often re-reading the sentence in its entirety once you got through the sounding of individual words? Children first learning to read handle—process—words the same way as adults learning a foreign language. My kindergarten German is always a plodding, langsam, approach to hearing what’s on the page. Word by word and syllable by syllable, I speak the strangely combined letters until finally something clicks in my head and I can hear the word in Deutsch.
Then, of course, I start dreaming in Deutsch and wake up wondering just what my I-spy characters were up to on the latest rendition of a Robert Ludlum book running in my head.
Being an author
As a writer, I love words. I love the way words look on a piece of paper when you write them with the right pen—purple or green giving your text some pizzaz while red screams edit. I love the way words appear on the white background of my computer program (Scrivener, for you fellow writers out there.) and fill up the space. I love finding the exact word that signifies what I intend it to convey in that particular sentence.
Whether I’m working on a blog or novel, it’s critical that each paragraph is well written and tells the complete story necessary in that block of verse to get my point across. Yet, sometimes when reading a novel, I read quickly so I know the story rather than see and pay attention to each individual word or reveal in the beauty of each sentence. I drive myself nuts with this speeding approach to get to the end rather than enjoy the writing of an author I repeatedly read. Which is why some books stay on my shelf and in my Kindle library—I will repeat them at a slower pace.
I was finishing Deuteronomy—not an easy Bible study, not an easy read—and reached chapter 33. Oh wow, what reading. A song that doesn’t rhyme (at least in English)? What was Moses thinking? I started to read it out loud and I realized immediately that I was really hearing the words and the story they unveiled. Even in English, it sounded correct and made an impact.
What reading aloud does for us
When I used to teach workshops at a former employer, I would read to myself aloud daily. Just like you have to build up bicep muscles to have arm strength, you have to build up your vocal chords to make it through six hours of training. Reading out loud served a double purpose—it slowed me down and conditioned my vocal cords.
I discovered, in conducting this exercise, that reading audibly as opposed to only in my head, changes my perspective on the text and provides deeper meaning. It’s like when Alex walks into a room, any room in the house, and sees that I have yet again flung myself onto the floor in some random way. “What are you doing?” He logically asks. “Changing my point of view,” I logically answer.
As I work on another novel re-write, I will separate the scenes for each character and read the passages out loud and ask myself: Will my reader be able to visualize the setting? Am I clearly conveying each character’s unique voice? Does this person’s relation to the larger story keep people turning the pages?
When I’m done with this blog, I’ll read it aloud.
This week I challenge you to listen to yourself as you speak, read your own words or someone else’s full tilt, casting them into the quiet around you. Let me know how your perspectives change.