The Sound of Writing – by Elle Hill

The hills are alive with the sound of… writing?

Much has been said about writers’ creepy Internet search histories, the music we blast while writing – heck, even whether we bother changing out of our jammies before jumping in front of the keyboard. The time has come to rip away the veil and expose yet another bizarre facet of the authorial experience: the truly weird noises we employ while writing.

After all, it’s not always easy to come up with words for all those items and events percolating in our creative noggins. If you’re like me, you’ve been known – perhaps well known – to gesture wildly, pace noisily near your desk, or repeatedly smack your palm against your chest, all in efforts to find The. Perfect. Word.

So, for example, someone standing outside my office might hear some of the following:


Okay, would you call this a leer? A smirk? A goofy smile?

[Growling] “Kind of a rumble…” [Growl] “Maybe a snarl…”

“What’s that when you say it low, like [mumble, mumble]? Is that a mutter? A murmur? A throaty whisper?”

[Slapping arm with other hand] “Is that, like, a crack? A clap? It sounds sharp and meaty. What word means that?”

“What is that when you walk slowly? Not an amble. A stroll? No, too casual. A shuffle? No, too sneaky…”

[Suspiciously lusty noise] “Not a moan, exactly.” [Lusty noise continues] “Groan?”

Someone standing outside my office would either think me a few doughnuts short of a baker’s dozen or else pop some popcorn, pull up a chair, and revel in the concert. Of course, if they took the last few steps into the room, they could also witness me tossing my hands in the air, twisting my face into complicated patterns, and emulating drunken staggers. Like at least some other authors, I suspect, writing is my very own, unique combination of charades, name that song, and SAT-level word association.

Writing may be one of the great verbal arts, but no one said it shouldn’t be performative, as well.


About Elle Hill

I'm a not-so-mild-mannered college instructor by day and writer by night. I'm an ex-animal rescuer and a forever animal lover. Finally, I'm a progressive, portly, political, powerful, pale-faced, passionate purveyor of poetry and prose.
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6 Responses to The Sound of Writing – by Elle Hill

  1. Karen Rossi says:

    Yes, I know what you mean, Neva! I tend to make gestures, too, sometimes just to make sure they can actually be done. My sister was reading one of my eroticas and she insisted whatever the lovers were doing just wasn’t humanly possible, I disagreed, So she had her husband do the contortions with her (I assume fully dressed…but maybe not!) and then emailed back to say it really did work. If I’m looking for a special word, I always turn to my huge thesaurus to get all the possibilities. After I choose a word and check in my dictionary to make sure it means what I thought it meant. Takes a bit of time but it makes me feel I have chosen a word that best expresses the sound, or gesture, or feeling I was after.

    • Elle Hill says:

      Thanks for sharing some tricks. I admit I visit and several times per day when I’m writing. Cuz, you know, the word is right on the tip of the tongue… 🙂

  2. aliceakemp says:

    I, too, struggle to find the best verb, being committed to avoiding the dreaded adverb. Sometimes I get so caught up in the search, I lose the train of the story. I’m one of those writers who edits as I go. Seems I’m incapable of just blurting the story out on the page to worry over the write word later. Oh well. Fun post, Elle. Thanks.

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