“One of the best ways to begin to recapture your own voice is to write autobiographically. The autobiographical voice demands that you write in none other than your own voice, more so than any other kind of writing… Write as if you were leaving an account of the incident to your kids…. that’s when your own true voice comes to life.” Les Edgerton Finding Your Voice: How to Put Personality in Your Writing
This post is Part 2 in a series. To read from the start go to Part 1.
For years I’ve been interested in how to find my voice. It pulled at me, even though I didn’t understand why. In the past few years of writing I’ve realized I wanted to find out more of who I was so I could express myself fully.
When I started singing at the age of 5 years old, I sang with my sisters. This was the first time I learned how to give voice to the gift inside of me. The thing was, for me at the beginning, I tried to copy my sisters voices. My inner ear could somehow pick up the pitch, tone and style of their voices so I could match my sound to theirs. So for the next few years I was basically imitating the sounds around me.
It changed when I started private vocal lessons in Junior High School. I finally learned to sing in my own voice because I had to sing on my own.
In some ways, this is a little like writing. At first we learn from others, modelling our craft after writers we admire. But at some point we move away from copying to learning to express ourselves and our ideas in our own voice.
This all takes a little bit of practice.
Sometimes finding your natural voice means changing your writing style in a way that brings you closer to the true expression of you.
People will be attracted to your writing when you are the ‘real you’.
When you find your voice, writing will feel almost effortless. Of course it will still take hard work. However, you will have a new comfort level and familiarity with your words that wasn’t possible before.
If for you writing feels like hard work, you might be writing for the wrong reasons. To impress someone, as a challenge because someone said you couldn’t, or any number of reasons.
Writing for the wrong reason is poison for the creative soul.
As you get more comfortable with your voice, other people in turn will get more comfortable with you. The quality of your work will grow and so will your confidence. And people will follow.
As you put your message out there, remember: It’s not just what you have to say, but how you say it.
Your writing voice is that compelling style that will cause people to pay attention to every word you write.
Practice Your Writing Style
Last week I wrote a story from when I was 4 years old as my exercise for that week. This week’s exercise is also from Les Edgerton’s book Finding Your Voice: How to Put Personality in Your Writing.
This time the exercise is to write a page describing a happy experience – but move ahead in time to when you were a teenager. Again, use words you would have used at that time in your life.
So here’s my practice shot from when I was 15 years old.
“It’s just not fair, Mom!” I dried the dishes faster than usual. The sounds of the dishes banging into the cupboards matched the cranky tone of my voice. “He gets to fly all the way to South America and here I am stuck at home. Working.”
I knew I was being petty, but it sounded like he was having such a fun adventure and here I was doing the same old, same old.
“Lorna, your brother is helping to build houses for other people. For missions. That’s not easy work.” She looked at me, a frown hovering over her usually smiling face.
Well, when she put it that way… maybe doing my job of mowing lawns in our small town and then helping some in the garden at home wasn’t such a bad thing. I pictured him sweating and burning his skin as he and all the other volunteers built houses in Paraguay. Okay, come to think of it, maybe what I was doing wasn’t so bad after all.
“Sorry, Mom.” I grimaced. “I just want an adventure too.”
“I know you do. We’ll see, maybe you’ll have one yet.” Mom finished washing up the last dish. My dish drying hadn’t slowed any, because while I didn’t complain anymore on the outside, on the inside I still wished for more fun.
Little did I know that her words would be prophetic.
Summer was almost over when my brother called and said they would be landing in Tampa Bay Florida, but they needed some money. I don’t remember the conversation that went on between mom and dad, but after a few hours, mom talked to me.
“Lorna, do you want to fly to meet your brother?” I looked at both dad and mom at the supper table.
“Is this a joke?” The farthest I’d ever driven away from our small Northern Alberta farm, was Vancouver and Saskatchewan. The thought of flying all the way to Tampa Bay, Florida sounded a little like being handed the world on a silver platter.
“No. We thought you could spend a week with your brother and his friend at Disney World. We’ll send you with travelers cheques so you can all have some fun while you’re there.” Mom’s big smile along with the twinkle I saw in Dad’s eyes, assured me that this was real.
“That’s so cool! I’ve never been on a plane before.” I got up dancing my way from the kitchen to the living room. “By myself?” Suddenly I stopped and turned around, realizing all that would happen here. That’s the part that scared the bejeebers out of me.
“No worries, there’s always someone at the airport who will help you get to where you’re going.” Mom assured me.
I swallowed the fear that still coated my throat.
By the time Mom and Dad drove me to the Edmonton International Airport, I had a lot more details, but I was also sweating with nervous energy. Here I was 15 years old and going by myself far away. My stomach was in knots by the time dad and mom had to go. I was assured all I had to do was wait for my flight number to be called. So I sat close enough so I was sure I would hear it. It took a long time, in fact so long that I dozed off. It was only by some miracle that I heard “Final Call for Flight #420 to Tampa Bay, Florida” that woke me up with a jolt. I quickly got my stuff together and headed to the where the flight attendant was waiting for the last people to board.
It felt weird being the only teenager by myself on the long flight. When I stepped out of the plane at the airport, I could hardly breathe. The air was so hot and humid. It took me awhile to adjust to this heat from the dry cool air of the North. The moisture felt good on my skin. I found my brother and his friend, waiting patiently in the airport terminal. They had been there all night. I gave my brother the travelers cheques and off we went That whole week exploring Disney World and seeing all the new sights, was an amazing adventure.
One I’d knew I’d remember for years.
So that was the voice I remembered from my teenage years… that and the constant restlessness I had back then…
Now it’s your turn. Practice this exercise at home. Really. You’ll be surprised at the voice that emerges on the page.
I hope you’ve been finding these exercises helpful. We’ll continue next week and work on the last exercise in this series.
Do you find your writing voice changes when you write from a younger voice to the writing voice you have today? Please join the conversation in the comments below, I’d love to hear from you.
*Photo Credit By: D. Sharon Pruitt
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