Welcome back to my musings on finding my voice. In Part One, I spoke about finding my voice in connection with my photography, my visual voice. But I’m not done – there is more, in this slightly longer than usual post!
Why is this so important to me? Why do I keep warbling on about this?
I am in the process of writing a book. Any of us trying to write a book about our personal experiences or transformation know that most of what has to be said, has already been said. This is the dilemma. In order for our book to come into being, we need to tell our story from our own unique experience and in our own voice.
There it is.
I need to write in my own voice.
I cannot tell the story using other people’s words.
I have to use my own.
We are told to write from the heart, to write authentically, to find our voice. But just how do we do that?
But first I need to differentiate it from the other voices around me and be sure that it is mine.
First off. There is the problem of shutting down the critical voices in my head, particularly Mergatroid’s. Although I’m getting pretty good at dealing with her nonsense, she does still add her opinions to the mix more than I’d like. That’s because her voice is also the voice of fear, the voice that cautions me to stay safe and stay within my comfort zone. And writing a book is way out of my comfort zone.
Second. My favourite creative block and procrastination technique is over-reading and over-researching. I can go on reading forever, and never get any writing done. I never thought I would say this, but for me, there is such a thing as too much reading. Sometimes I need space to make sense of what I’ve read, heard, learned and to internalise it, to make it mine.
Reading has another complex effect on me.
When I read, it is the voice of that author that’s in my head, not my own.
I have to get those other voices out of my head.
Otherwise I will write in the same way as they do.
Anne Lamott, author of “Bird by bird” writes that your own voice can only be truthful when you have direct experience. She eloquently summarises exactly what I am trying to say (you might say I haven’t found my voice yet).
“What you say will be an abstraction because it will not have sprung from direct experience: when you try to capture the truth of your experience in some other person’s voice or on that person’s terms, you are removing yourself one step further from what you have seen and what you know”
How do we overcome these?
From what I am learning more and more each day, what is becoming obvious to me is that there are two ways to overcome the obstacles: by writing and giving ourselves space and downtime. Let’s explore these a bit more.
Writing, writing and more writing. Hide the books, quotes and voluminous notes away, put down the phone, turn off the social media feeds.
With just my pen, paper and my own experience, I must write. Sure, I can write around a prompt – so long as I write in my own words and from my own experience. Write without structure or purpose and see what flows out of my pen.
But even this is not easy to do because my head is full of buzzwords or social media hashtags that are floating around in the ether. I catch myself using a buzzword and then I begin to doubt myself – is this my voice or someone else’s? How do I know, how can I find out?
Anne Wilson Schaef writes: “we have to give ourselves time. We have to give our ideas time. Otherwise we cannot hear the voice of our inner process speaking to us”.
In this downtime, in this space, the things we already know are re-organised or transformed and our mental structures are changed by new, incoming information. They are internalised in Vygotskian terms. Brenda Ueland says in that “creative instant of getting it” it feels like she is “adding it unto myself forever.” This is the time when what we have learnt begins to become part of who we are, in our mind, body and spirit.
So I’d say that this is the second way to find our voice – we need downtime and space. Space and time away from the hustle and bustle of modern life, time away from social media, other people and telly. It’s the bit we find hardest to do, because we want to rush in our world driven by doing, performance measures and getting instant results.
What if the result we need is just to have space?
We need to give ourselves space to allow our own thoughts and ideas to take hold and flourish, to become part of who we are. I recently wrote this in my Morning Pages:
“Don’t be afraid of being alone and disconnected from the distractions of technology. Solitude is something we all need more of. Silence and solitude give you space – to breathe out; to tear away the conventions of society and the masks we wear; to get to know yourself more intimately. Space gives us the opportunity to go into uncharted territory; to discover what you really want; to discover or reclaim your own voice to reduce overwhelm”.
Am I finding my writing voice?
I’d love to say a wholehearted “Yes”.
The more honest answer is maybe and slowly.
As with finding my visual (photography) voice, it is a slow process and it requires absolute dedication and daily practice, just as my photography does.
There is no getting away from that. If I want to write, if I want to find my voice, I need to work at it.
Sorry, this has turned into a long post. If you are still with me:
What are your thoughts? Have you found your voice – written, visual or otherwise? How did you do it? Are you struggling to find it?
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