The practice at my writing workshop is that each writer reads their piece aloud to the other writers present. While the reader reads, the listeners jot notes and the reader tries to ignore their jotting, hoping that it is all praise and not harsh phrases like “reword this,” a stiff rebuke I remember from college to which I always wanted to respond, “I already picked the best words I know.”
Today at my writing workshop, I read a piece I have brought at least twice before. It is a long essay, for me, 1,500 words, that talks about my tangled relationship with one of my children. Some in the group, certainly the leader, might suspect that the essay is itself my therapy, my way of working out the tangles, the way I was taught to put olive oil on a snarled gold necklace to make it sleek and straight again.
It was okay today. I didn’t have that catch in my voice that I’ve had in the past. Maybe because now I know how things turned out or are turning out, everything always in motion in life until it isn’t. I caught one woman looking at me from across the room and she had such warmth and sympathy in her eyes, I wanted to leave and go down the hall to the bathroom or get up and make a cup of coffee in the Keurig on the counter, anything to stay writer-like and not mother-like.
Reading aloud is precious. Sometimes I read things to my husband while we are riding in the car. My daughter, the former newspaper reporter, told me long ago, to read all of my work aloud before sending it to the world and this works in so many ways. You can hear the cadence of a piece, appreciate its pace and wording, know when you’ve stalled and are about to run out of gas, expose yourself to the air and its judgment. Because, you know, that is the fundamental thing about writing — the sound of the words on your heart.