Inner Speech – How to Trust Your Writerly Voice

Inner speech is the internal voice you hear when thinking and composing. It can manifest as a distinct voice, a mix of fragmented speech, visual imagery, and sensory perceptions, or even as intuition or a felt sense. Mastering your inner speech is a crucial aspect of the writing process, enhancing how you articulate and develop ideas.        

What is Inner Speech?

Inner speech refers to the silent, mental dialogue that writers experience during the writing process.

Writers actively listen to their inner speech while composing. During drafting writers are constantly asking themselves questions. They are in dialog with themselves throughout the process. Writers ask themselves questions as they engage in rhetorical analysis of the situation they are addressing. When they make claims, they ask themselves questions about what evidence thay can provide to support the claim.

In his groundbreaking work on learning and language development in the 1920s, Vygotsky (1978) theorized that inner speech emerges as a form of thought, deeply intertwined with cognitive processes. It originates from the external dialogue of children, who often vocalize their thoughts during play. As they mature, this outward speech transitions into a silent, internal conversation. For writers, this process results in a language that becomes increasingly condensed and richly layered, infused with personal experiences and the influences of their readings. This internalized speech is a blend of past dialogues.

Inner speech doesn’t have the fullness of Standard Written English. Rather, it tends to be partial, fragmentary, inchoate. It’s a language that has yet to have found shape and form. Internal speech may manifest as verbal thoughts, mental imagery, and sensory experiences. Inner speech may be experienced as a form of intuition and felt sense.

Synonymous Terms

In some circumstances the terms “inner speech” and “felt sense” can be used synonymously: both apply broadly to the role of feeling, embodied knowing, and intuition in the writing process.

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