The page has fallen silent

Being very old, I had the kind of education that seems incredibly sort of learned to people now in school. We learned to write, not just to type and print, but so we could write in a rapid cursive hand – which can be useful if the electricity’s off. We were also pretty well drilled in English grammar, which nobody loved, probably not the teacher either, but it really is awfully useful if you are going to write English. You can speak very well without knowing it, but when it comes to writing, there are certain things you have to know about making yourself clear to a reader. It’s very different from speaking to a listener. Apparently fewer of those skills are being taught.   …

Something that is very much neglected critically and in teaching is what a sentence or a little piece of prose sounds like. Language is basically speaking, and writing is a way of preserving it. It just so happens that I’m the kind of person who hears my writing; I hear it silently in my head, so I mostly don’t have to read it to myself.   …

A lot of people, however, don’t hear their writing, and it never occurred to them that they should. We used to recite and to have to learn poems in school. All that seems to be gone. Reading aloud is not something that people seem to do much anymore, though just about everyone seems to enjoy being read to. It’s like the page has fallen silent. And I think a writer needs to be able to hear the page they’re writing. And to speak a sentence out loud you often hear, “It’s going clunk right there.”

Ursula K.LeGuin, interview.


1 thought on “The page has fallen silent

  1. Nicely put, Ursula! Thanks for sharing this. It actually never dawned on me that some people don’t “hear their writing.” That explains so much to me, and how clever of her to realize it.

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