My parents read to me when I was little – which is probably where I learned to love stories. More than that, I learned to love the spoken word. I find a beautifully narrated story the most fabulous entertainment imaginable. The combination of a well modulated voice and a rousing tale is right there at the top of my ‘best things ever’ list 🙂
Fast forward to when I was at uni. There I noticed that academic prose tends to be littered with the sort of language that professors and tutors require – but which doesn’t make for easy narration. I chose to avoid that as far as possible, reading my essays and assignments out loud after writing them so that I could get a sense of how they sounded. My goal? To achieve words that scan well and can be read out loud without awkward pauses. This often required cutting out unnecessary words and/or complex language in order to express my thoughts more efficiently.
I’d type and scribble – then read it all out loud – then tweak what I’d written until it sounds right. Then I’d do it all again. It made me think about what I’d written differently. Hearing the words gave them different meaning, helped me to understand my research differently and make linkages I might otherwise have missed.
My postgrad supervisors enjoyed this aspect of my monthly reporting. We’d all sit down and get the social niceties out of the way, then I’d ask them ‘Are you sitting comfortably…? Then let’s begin’. Flipping open my journal, I’d read my report to them as a story – a compilation of my research activities, thoughts and analysis over the past month. And they’d sit back and enjoy it. Afterwards we’d have a discussion about the research, but no session was complete without story time. It was enormous fun and we all remembered a great deal more about the project from month to month than we might otherwise have done.
This way of being flowed through into how I structured my thesis and, later, my memoir. It’s how I choose to write (for fun and profit). The dogs have never been much of an audience, really, but they’re very patient with my ramblings… Perhaps they know that as my own first audience I will also always be my harshest critic?