Voice. Ever felt called by the echo of your own voice in a cave? Or been seduced by the music of a husky, breathy voice…
‘Finding your voice’ is bandied about as the gold at the end of the rainbow for emerging writers. This is a rather intangible aspect of the craft that allows the reader to recognise the difference between, say, Dickens and Kerouac. It’s a unique sensibility, a distinctive way of looking at the world, an authentic expression of who the writer is. Part of ‘voice’ involves how the writer uses style and technique, but it is much, much more than that.
Author Nina Stibbe spoke at Penzance Literature Festival about the importance of being yourself when you write. As she rightly said, it is much less effort, and it makes you more successful. Like many of us, it took her quite some time to get close.
She spent years trying to sound like someone else.
When I first touched my ‘voice’ it was like an echo coming back at me from the dark passages of a cave. Now, I experience that speaking in your own voice gives you a direct and profound connection to those you are speaking to. It is flow.
My response now, to the question ‘how can I find my voice?’ is a set of questions. They are questions that I’m still answering for myself, a life work.
- What emotions frighten you because you think you will be overwhelmed, lose control, or go mad?
What parts of yourselves have you suppressed or disowned because they are not acceptable in your family or wider community? What aspects of yourself are you embarrassed or ashamed of?
- Where are all those parts of yourself now?
- Projected on to other people or the environment?
- Somatised in numb or unwell parts of your body?
- Leaking out, despite your best efforts, in, for example, uncontainable emotion?
Which parts of yourself are not really you? Can you separate out the voices of caregivers and peers that you have absorbed over time?
When we can tell our autobiographical and fictional stories unashamedly, without diverging from, or drowning in, the emotions concerned…
When we are able to welcome all the pieces of ourselves back, and send those that are not us, back to where they came from…
When we can stand proudly in the fullness of who we are, and be witnessed in that… then we’ve found our voice.
Mark Twain said,"If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything."
Speaking from a place of truth. What an utter relief that would be.
The Monthly Writing Prompt
Spend 45 minutes this month answering the above questions. Answer them from your gut instinct, don’t let the rational mind talk you into ‘more reasonable’ or ‘appropriate’ answers. As well as writing, it can be very helpful to draw images or use other art forms, including movement, to express your responses to the questions.