talking to myself (a writing experiment)

After moaning about being unfocused and being gently-but-firmly kicked in the butt by Julie (who is a writing machine and has just published her first book, which I’m currently reading and which you should so check out), I stopped the complaining (out loud) and did sit down and write and have now, by Sunday afternoon, two fresh new chapters – yeay!

My morning walks with the dog, which I touched upon in the previous post (as a devious means to distract your attention from the fact that I was feeling sorry for myself) also enter into this post, although not for the pretty landscape, but for something I’ve been experimenting with: dictating the story to myself.

Usually when I walk the dog, I either just listen to my surroundings – especially in the mornings, when it’s still fresh and quiet and birds are singing – or, if I need a bit of escapism, I listen to audio books on my mp3-player (Georgette Heyer, anyone?). Shortly before November, when I was scrambling to get to know my characters sufficiently to be able to work with them, I decided to try and not only talk to myself in my head, which of course I do all the time, but to do it in a more constructive way and talk out loud and record it on my player. Which I did, feeling like a fool and falling silent every time I only saw another person approaching on the horizon. But it worked! Talking and asking questions out loud really focused my attention and I developped some interesting and quite unforeseen backstories.

This morning, I decided that I had enough backstory, that I didn’t need any more ‘about’. So I gulped – twice – and took out my trusty little mp3-player and started telling the story at the point where I had left off the night before. Every time I got stuck, I just repeated the sentence before and every time it clicked after two or so repetitions and I could carry on. It was amazing! I’d expected it to be more difficult, because usually I need my hands to move to have my best ideas, but somehow, it worked!

When I came back home with about 45 minutes of talk on my player, I was so psyched that I sat down, put on the earphones and started taking dictation from myself straight away. Now that really was weird, to be honest. Most of us, I think, feel uncomfortable with hearing our own voices outside of our head, and I had been almost whispering when I recorded it, as well as walking quite fast, so I was breathy and hard to understand even to myself! Also, every time I talked to the dog – to call him back or something – I switched to German and spoke much louder. Then I went back to telling the story in English in a half-whisper. People are strange, aren’t they?

Anyway, after typing what I’d told myself and adding some details here and there, I had a whole chapter where before, I’d had nothing. Magic! How cool is that?!

Have you ever dictated anything to yourself? Did it work for you? What other tricks do you know to move forward those troublesome stories? Do you feel as horribly self-conscious about hearing your own voice as I do?

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About wordsurfer

writer, ex-teacher, human rights believer & fighter, traveller, adventure-seeker, freedom lover, global citizen. big on daydreams, less so on reality.

Posted on November 25, 2012, in writing and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. The switching language was a neat trick to make sure you knew which parts were story and what wasn’t. I think it’s hard every time we try something new, though I applaud you for doing so, because it’s only in doing so that we find what works best for us.

    Thank you for the compliments, the links and the plug. I’m glad you’re enjoying the book and I swear, I was just nudging you… maybe a bit with my foot. 😉

    • I felt the foot, but I’m grateful! 😉
      And thanks for putting a positive spin on my language-mixing! I swear, I’m forgetting German by the day… I spend so much time online, where I only communicate in English, that I’m starting to stammer and stutter when talking to people face-to-face.

      • I just salute you for knowing multiple languages. I’m pretty much unilingual myself, though I think I still remember a little French from school. Very little. 😉

  2. I’ve never tried to do that, but that sounds really interesting! I’m so glad it worked for you! And you’re right – I definitely hate hearing my own voice! It’s one of my least favorite sounds in the world. Haha. 🙂

    • Next time you’re stuck, you can try it and tell me how it worked for you. Maybe I’ll discover some kind of voice-disguising freeware, so that we don’t have to listen to our own voices (yikes! do I really sound like that???)!

  3. First…yoursense of humor just cracks me up!
    Secondly, what a cool, cool idea! Im going to start trying this with my smart phone (I think it has some sort of app for that). I have these self dialogues mostly in the car so I think I often loose a lot of potentially good ideas between traffic lights. Thanks for sharing that exceptional little hint!

  4. What sense of humour?
    Glad you like the idea, and I’m sure there must be some app for recording yourself. It might probably even come with some kind of voice-disguising function as well, so you could listen to yourself talking in the voice of… I don’t know… pick your favourite smooth-voiced celebrity. I’m thinking now…. that could be both neat and highly disturbing at the same time… Good luck with the car talks, let me know how it works! And whose voice you’d like to borrow.

  5. It’s great that you figured out a way to move your story along! Personally I would hate to do that. I don’t like the sound of my own voice, and it always bugs me how it sounds different to me than it does to others, haha. I speak to myself sometimes though? I found that having an inner argument with my own self lets me see what works and what doesn’t, since I’m usually too critical for my good.

    • It’s always such a shock to hear yourself on record, isn’t it? I go like: Oh, wait, this is what you guys have to put up with every time I open my mouth?! (not really, but it’s what I think). However, since in this case nobody has to listen to it except me, it’s bearable. 🙂
      Yep, I know that evil little critic that sits there and shoots down all the ideas one has. It’ll be all bright and great for ten minutes, and then the little devil-critic starts taking it apart: Oh no, actually, this won’t work, because …. And: It’s really not that great an idea, actually, it’s totally boring and anyway, why would you think you can do this?
      That thing is bad. Let’s shoot all the internal critics. Little bastards.

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