Voice. Is it created or discovered?
Almost three years ago I wrote a blog for another author on the subject of voice:
I’ve been amazingly blessed with grandchildren over the past seven years—seven of them—and we have just received word that there will be another one by spring. And yet, here I am, still so young!
While visiting Jordy’s family in July, I snuck away to the bedroom with him so we could talk privately. After all, a grandma has to get to know her little ones. I lay on the bed with six-week old Jordy and began to talk to him. He fixed his eyes on mine, connecting with my soul. He watched my face, and my mouth, and then his mouth began to move. He struggled to make a sound, and when he did, we celebrated. He had found his voice.
I tried making the same connection with Sydney at about the same age and the result was exactly the same. She wanted to express herself to me, and when she was successful she wiggled with pleasure.
As writers, we talk about “voice” and wonder what it is. Is voice something we create or something we discover? Jordy and Sydney taught me more about voice than any books or workshops could ever do.
Voice is who we are. Jordy’s cry is squeaky and pitiful. Sydney’s is loud and demanding. Neither baby decided what he or she would sound like. They are who they are. We each have our own voice, are born with it in its raw form. This is the voice we eventually use for speaking and writing.
Voice is not something we create; it’s in all of us. It’s who we are, expressed in words, or the equivalent of words for the pre-speech set. We all have thoughts and feelings and ideas that long to be expressed, but they do not always come easily. Consider how varied the stages of development are from baby to baby. Some, very early in their lives, jabber in an alien tongue. Others refrain from speaking until they are older and then launch out in full sentences. Neither is right nor wrong; each is unique.
Once we discover our voice, we are responsible for developing it. How? By using it. Our older daughter practiced words until she got them right. Hers was a determined approach to capturing the essence of speech.
Find some of your earliest writings and read them over. Unless you were especially gifted, the early writings seem weak and unformed. As you grow and experience life, as you struggle to express yourself, your voice, both spoken and written, grows stronger.
Some writers, like my friend Bonnie Grove, broke out in an amazing voice that captivates and communicates in a most unique manner. Others, like myself, struggle to discover how best to express their inner selves on the computer screen. Either way, we are who we are. Let the struggle begin. Keep practicing.