Three years ago, when I was starting my blogging journey , I worried about many things.
As if those questions weren't the source of enough worry, I had an even bigger concern: What would my writing voice sound like? And how would I develop it? Would it evolve through brute force practice? Or would it emerge gradually and organically?
Listening has become crucial to how I write: I listen to words as I read them back to myself in my head, and then try different versions until I discover ones that fit.
I listen to how words sound next to each other in a sentence. Can I feel the beat? Can I feel the rhythm of the words? Am I varying the tempo, tone, and volume?
Much of the musical effect of my words and sentences I achieve through the use of strategically placed commas, colons, semicolons, dashes, and periods. These unassuming little punctuation marks pack a lot of punch, and I'm in awe of their power to take my words and transform them into musical notes and phrases.
When I feel that I've done enough wrangling with my words at the sentence-by-sentence, paragraph-by-paragraph level, I zoom out and read through the whole piece to see if it flows smoothly.
And how do I know if a piece is ready to publish?
If I read it and hear music, then I know I've got something worth sharing with the world.
Listening, quietly, to the sound of your words in your mind's ear is one way to assess and improve your writing. But there's another method I learned about recently from Robin Rice, an author, teacher, and mentor to leaders. She told me that one trick she uses to improve her writing is to send an email to herself with whatever she's working on at the moment. Then she has Siri read it back to her. By listening to Siri read her writing out loud to her, she can discover mistakes that she needs to fix.
Of course, Siri requires an iPhone, which is not free. But there are free text to speech applications that do the same thing. You can also record yourself reading your writing using the free app on your smartphone, or by using the built-in microphone on your laptop, and then play that back to yourself.
Whatever tech tool you use to improve your writing, make sure you use your ears as much as you use your eyes. Because, as all writers know, writing is actually listening.
A version of this article appeared on LinkedIn.