The art of verbal storytelling is strong in my family. With both Irish and Native American ancestors, you’d think I’d have a natural inclination to recite stories with intrigue, precision, and insight. I do…but only when I write them down.
“How was your day today, Kelly?” Seems like an easy-enough question, right? Not for me – when I start telling the events of my day it turns into a rambling mess full of tangents and meandering paths. I’m frequently told that I’m horrible at telling stories. I laugh it off and agree with them, but I’ve recently figured out why my verbal story telling skills are lacking where my written ones flourish: care, thoughtfulness, respect for the words I choose.
My love of writing started as a teenager, in a need to express all the struggles and frustrations that came with being a teenager. A very artistic, spiritual teenager to be more precise. I’d open my journal and just let my pen float across the page, feverishly extracting all that I found it difficult to say. Most of the time, I didn’t relay my feelings face to face with people I cared about precisely because I didn’t want to upset anyone. Plus, I worried that my opinions would be deemed flawed or not as valued as others. So I kept quiet and vented to a piece of paper instead. There are plenty of people in my life who relish face to face conversation. Who prefer to lay it out all on the table and talk things out. That’s never been one of my strongest skill sets. I tend to ponder, contemplate, and take time to think of what I want to say and how I want to say it. Most often when faced with an uncomfortable, nerve-wracking, or confrontational situation I sit quietly and come up with insightful responses only after the discussion is complete. I turn to my notebook and express my opinions/feelings/insights in the safety of my writing. The only judgments I receive there are of my own psyche – the notebook doesn’t spout back all the reasons I’m wrong or give me disapproving glances.
Since I value respectful communication so highly, I much prefer to take the time to process what I want to say in a manner that values both the writer and the recipient. That being “said” (pun intended), I love singing, acting, and public speaking. I love using my voice as a catalyst for artistic inspiration, insightful discussion, or educational motivation. In all of those instances, I come prepared. I’m not just “winging” it. One of my favorite ways to use my voice is reading stories aloud. I love sitting on the couch with my niece and nephews, infusing the words on the page with lovely vocal tones and lilts. Making the story and characters come alive – become animated.
So too do I enjoy reading my own written work aloud. In doing so, I hear phrasing that looked great on paper but don’t roll off the tongue very easily. I catch typos that my brain automatically saw when reading it silently. I get a firmer handle on the characters’ voices. “Did that make them sound angry when I intended it to be anxious?” “Are my characters merely rambling on about nothing in particular?” These are the types of questions I ask myself when I read my work aloud. It has proven to be an extremely valuable and quite helpful exercise, especially when surrounded by fellow writers.
Today, I’m reading Part One of my novel aloud as I sit at the dining room table. I wanted to have a clear understanding of what the first part feels like before I continue on editing Part Two. I’ve already caught areas that needed tweaking, and I still have more to go. I care about the words I choose and how they are conveyed, whether on the page or face to face.