I hate voice recording. It’s time-consuming, error-prone, frustrating, requires a range of skills, and is easily ruined by fickle technology. That sounds just like voice recording’s ugly cousin – video editing. But as much as I hate it, I’ve found voice recording to be an increasingly valuable and necessary part of my process of writing poetry.
It started when I decided to make blinks of awe. That meant recording every poem that I chose to include in the book. I’m glad I had no clue how much work that entailed, because I would have immediately shied away from it. There’s setting up, recording, reading, listening, tweaking a billion settings, and repeating the whole process more times than you ever think is necessary. But the details aren’t important now. I just want to convince you that voice recording is worth it because it will improve your work.
Why does it help to re-read your words out loud at all? The words in your head sound different from the ones that come out of your mouth. You may notice places where you naturally pause but your poem doesn’t. You may notice yourself making mistakes. You may notice things that don’t sound natural. You may notice yourself saying words you didn’t write. These are all places where there’s an opportunity to edit or justify what you wrote. Reading out loud will make your work stronger without an expensive microphone or intimidating audio editing programs. So why record?
The difference between what you hear in your head and what you read out loud is amplified when you read with emotion and capture your voice. You’ll hear what other people hear. You’ll compare what comes out of your speakers and headphones with what comes out of your heart. You may notice places where you’re less excited. Ask why? If you’re not excited, how is your audience supposed to feel? You may find opportunities to convey entirely new meanings by stressing different words or painting a different mood than your words alone convey. Try a range of moods. You may discover unusual sounds, better pauses, different line breaks, and other ideas in what you hear. Experiment with them all. All of these things happened for me when recording blinks of awe. Recording inspired new edits in every poem, long after I thought they were done.
Try voice recording as part of your editing process. You may find better words and new things to write. The practice will make for more memorable readings at open mic nights. At the very least, you’ll see and hear your poetry from a new perspective.