Vocal Hygiene for Writers

Ever go to a writer’s convention and lose your voice on the first night at the bar or hospitality suite?

How do you schmooze with book people if you sound like Linda Blair in The Exorcist?


Here are some tips culled from several voice doctors who helped me when I developed a vocal cord node.

  • Speak from the diaphragm. You always hear this, but what does it mean? Where is your diaphragm anyway? Stand tall, not straight. Raise your hands over your head. Drop your arms without dropping your shoulders or chest. This is a good posture for talking or singing. Place your hand above your belly button. Say ‘hawk’, emphasizing the ‘k’. Feel that little jump? That’s your diaphragm. Exercise it by saying hawk over and over. Panting also works.
  • Breathe into your belly, not your shoulders. Learn to draw breath from deep inside and not just from the neck up.
  • Press your tongue behind your lower teeth. See how that opens up your throat? Feel that column of air that your voice can draw from? This is speaking from the diaphragm. Try to dump the air flow on the vowel; practice using ‘h’ sounds. (“In Hartford, Hereford and Hampshire, hurricanes hardly ever happen.”)
  • Avoid having to talk over music or loud background noise if you can. If you can’t, try to speak slowly and to stay in a good posture. Leaning forward, pushing the sound out from just the neck up, shouting over loud sounds, can give you rough voice in a few hours. (I have enormous trouble following my own advice at writer’s conferences. But do try. It’s good advice.)
  • Get enough sleep. Avoid caffeine, which is wonderful for keeping you going but not so good at making sure you have a voice in the morning. Caffeine is dehydrating and is also a vasoconstrictor. If you do caffeine anyway, try to hydrate like an athlete in order to compensate. Drink sports drinks to replace electrolytes. Lemonade will also do.
  • Avoid dairy and sugar drinks.
  • Gargle with warm salt water for throat repair.
  • Avoid whispering and clearing your throat.
  • Carry throat lozenges with you. Ricola will do nicely.

Here’s more from the UC Davis Center for Voice and Swallowing.

This entry was posted in Commentary, Conferences, Self-Promotion and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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