As someone for whom words have always soothed and enchanted, and often challenged and enlightened, this is a startling question. I adore reading books, articles and magazines so why am I even asking it?
I was coaching an actor recently, and I mentioned that WORDS BY THEMSELVES ARENT ALIVE EXCEPT IN A WRITTEN MEDIUM. In books, on billboards, license plates, signs, contracts, subtitles etc., words speak to us and inform, move, surprise, shock and touch us. But in Acting, the words don’t tell the story, YOU tell the story. This applies to reading aloud as well; because that is also a performing art.
The actor had it drummed into him by a former teacher, that “copy is everything.” He was so over focused on the words that he kept losing his connection to the subject itself - the storyline, who he was within it, who he was talking to, and why. He couldn’t seem to break free from his analytical self.
Look at it this way: The writer has an impulse/idea and uses his or her talent to express it through language in the most refined way possible. He is expressing what he feels and/or imagines through language and punctuation (and all too often, stage instructions telling the actor how to perform these words). But the actor’s job is to bring it to life, get it off the page and into the realm of flesh and blood, heart and mind. When you read the words, you need to understand them and have personal reactions to them. This is the actor’s work. If you dont feel a strong connection to what you have to say, then you begin to build one for yourself. Memories, other people’s stories, research, imagination all help inform the words for you. So that ultimately, you can embody them as you speak them. This is how good actors make it appear as if there never was a script at all; as if they are just improvising in the moment the way we all do in life.
This is why I strongly disapprove of actors looking in the mirror as they prepare or run their material. The minute I watch myself “doing” it, I have disconnected from “being” it. The exception to this is that when you are on a film, television or theatrical set, of course you need to be physically aware of your marks, blocking and eye lines - all of which are external visuals. But watching yourself while you focus somewhere else is an exercise in futility and selfconsciousness.
The exercise I recommend instead, is to sit somewhere quiet and dark (like your bathroom or closet perhaps), preferably on the floor cross legged. By candlelight, speak your words one at a time, slowly. Allow the deepest, most personal meaning of the word to resonate inside you as you hear yourself say it aloud. At the end of each line, say the entire line once or twice based on what you have discovered. This also works well with whispering each word. Something about the very private space frees up deeper parts of your mental and emotional self. When you return to a normal room and speak your lines, you definitely feel more organic and truthful.
Your GOAL: Be connected. Be in the moment. Go after what you want and need. This is true for anyone needing to use words in any circumstance - for example, asking for a raise, beginning a difficult conversation, telling someone “no” etc. Even apologizing. All experience with the spoken word will communicate a hundred times better when you are connected to your own feelings and speaking from your truth. Obviously your approach matters, but that comes from your purpose in speaking. One wouldn’t ask for a raise from a position of undeserving, nor aggression. That is just common sense. In telling someone “no”, you might be letting them down easy or setting an overdue boundary. The two approaches differ, but the bottom line is always the same. Be connected, be present and be clear about what you want and why.