A friend and I discussed the insanity of our senses. How we can be over-stimulated, fractured by the sounds, the shapes, and the colors surrounding us. We are in a state of wonder about this heightened awareness and where we take it.
As I write I am listenig to Irish music on a public radio station. Outside my closed door, I can hear the fan as it oscillates in my living room. Out of this mass of sound, one thing can catch my ear. It could be the sound of a baby crying or the distant wail of a fire truck. As a child, I could hear fog horns of the East River. I knew from stories my mother told me that the river was a dangerous place. The sound made me think of a lone ship lost on the water searching for its way out of the darkness. Many years later that sound still haunts me.
What do we hear? Angels singing while listening to delightful music, and other times it is the clanging of bells in our head. Sound surrounds us. It envelopes us, but how can we use it creatively?
Musicians, artists, and writers hear differently. Songs differ in sound from essays.
As writers, we hear as we write. We need to hear our own words. I have a microphone I use to record poetry and prose. The first playback is disappointing. The sound of my voice is at first unpleasant. I sound nasal and seem to swallow some words. But I heard how the poems sounded; where they worked and where they didn’t. I usually would read my work out loud, but hearing it played back was different. I could now use my voice more creatively by modulating it, using inflection, and adding more pizzazz into the words I was speaking.
Hearing my work not only changed how I read my work, but it also changed how I wrote. Realizing how words sounded, I could use them differently.
Writers often talk of finding their voice as if they lost somewhere it. Most times the voice we seek is the one we hear all the time. But we dismiss it because the sound of our voice seems mundane. We want to write great things. We want to hear our work spoken with great flourish. We want to see the moist eyes of moved audiences hanging on the very sound of our words.
Hearing = Listening
Do you listen? Have you blocked out the surrounding sounds with technology? Consider the things you hear; the good, the bad, and the loud can be a substantial source of material for you. We quickly dismiss the ordinary as having no value. It is often this mundane that is the fodder for a wonderful tale. Think about Frank McCourt’s book, Angela’s Ashes. It was a devastating recounting of his childhood. The dialogue was not profound. It was ordinary and powerful.
We hear things and we laugh. A piece of music makes us cry. Surrounded by sound, we can’t help but immerse ourselves in its possibilities. Never underestimate what you hear. Those could give you some excellent information.
Creative writing prompts: Hearing
• We hear snippets of conversation all the time. Cell phones give us opportunities to overhear the personal details of perfect strangers. Don’t get mad. Get creative. Use an overheard conversation as the foundation for some juicy writing. Go take the mundane and make it brilliant with the stroke of your pen.
• Record your own voice: Use your phone, the computer, or a video camera and record some poetry or prose. Do you like how you sound? What don’t you like? Use your voice, modulating it up and down. Try acting as different characters.
• Create a story out of the sound of your voice.