When I was eighteen, I began doing daily writing exercises of my own invention with the goal of becoming a good enough writer to one day sell stories to magazines and possibly publish a novel. I was going to college at the time, 1967, and the main obstacle to my writing practice was that I was going to college, which only allowed me an hour or so a day for my writing, the rest of my time taken up with classes, reading, playing basketball, searching for food, tossing the Frisbee, and wooing fair maidens.
One evening my eccentric and unpredictable roommate looked up from the math proof he was working on and asked, “Will you read me what you wrote today?”
Prior to this request, he had seemed indifferent to my writing practice, and though I was somewhat suspicious of his request (he was majoring in Sarcasm), I acquiesced and read him a few pages of a quasi-story about a persnickety young man who was unsure of how to dress for a party at which he hoped to impress a particular fair maiden.
My roommate closed his eyes and seemed to go to sleep, and I marveled at how different the words I’d written sounded when read aloud, as if I’d never heard the words before, which, in fact, I hadn’t.
And from that moment on, I made it my practice to read aloud every draft of everything I wrote, a practice that greatly improved my writing.
As for my roommate, he opened his eyes at the conclusion of my little story and declared, “That was based on me, wasn’t it? I do make a fuss about which shirt to wear.”