There’s a scene from Disney’s The Little Mermaid that’s been replaying in my mind the last week. Specifically, I keep seeing the close-up profile of Ursula’s mouth as she answers Ariel’s question…
Nothing is more personal and signature than a voice. A voice hints at personality in the same way a body does through movement. Acting adepts understand this. Cadence, accent, emphasis, tambor, tone – all these things influence the voice. Does a person speak from their nose? Mouth? Throat? Chest? Do they enunciate? Do they mumble? Do they ramble on and on? Always the voice frames these idiosyncrasies. The voice is a personality package.
I watched a video recently of myself giving a talk. I struggle watching myself. It’s something I would rather not do. It gives me the willies or something. This is despite having recorded music for years, performing all manner of forms, giving talks, as well as interviews.
As I watched this video, I listened. My voice is low for a woman. Quite low. This is how I can sing some tenor parts along with soprano. It’s also, I’m sure, part of the reason why I’ve been given some authority and license despite having ovaries.
When I was a younger, less experienced writer, I intuitively understood the importance of voice. However whenever someone talked about voice in writing, my eyes glazed over. I would smile and nod.
Recently I asked people to review my fiction (specifically my serial STAKES). Whenever you ask for reviews, the process can be harrowing. What if someone doesn’t like it? What if my work isn’t good enough? What if they give me a bad review?!
I’ve come a long way with my work, in many ways. I have improved tremendously as a writer because I write daily (and have for over five years). It should be noted that I also taught composition. I’ve taught public speaking. I’ve been complimented by writing professionals on my writing. I am a good writer.
Also, I am a singular writer. This is evident in my voice. I came to prose out of poetry, where I rejoice in playing with tense, syntax, and punctuation. Word work is play for me. I use a mix of everything from low level slang to formal compound sentence construction. I like serial commas and interabangs. I like adverbs. Sometimes, I choose to tell. Like, on purpose.
Are you freaking out yet? Does this feel like nails on a chalkboard? Or are you biting your lip and anxiously running to my next sentence? Get ready. This is big.
Don’t confuse editing/proofing with voice.
Let me make one thing clear for you: if it is intentional it is not an error. Voice isn’t a mistake. It’s a choice. Sure, you want to be consistent in this voice throughout your work, but if you are being consistently inconsistent (if that makes sense)…it’s voice. Not error.
Let this sink in. Is your mind blown yet?
As I write this, I’m struggling not to grin as this epiphany sinks into your brain. I’m seriously relishing this.
I write this, dear ones, to let you know something; it doesn’t matter if someone doesn’t like your voice. All the rules are suggestions. They’re there for a reason. You should know them, but when you choose to follow your beautiful art in your beautiful way, love it. Your voice has a purpose – it is beautiful.
Let me repeat myself: your voice has a purpose.
Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise. If they don’t like it, if they need the rules, it’s about them. Not you. And that’s fine. But it has nothing to do with your voice. Without unique voices, we wouldn’t have greats like e.e. cummings and Gertrude Stein blowing up convention.
So, write. Write with intention. Sure, fix the typos. Sure, be consistent. But most importantly, write your truth in your beautiful way.
Thank you for being you.
- Between Chaos and Order: The Need For A Middle Way - June 18, 2018
- Spiritual Mamas: Intuition, Spirituality, and Motherhood - June 4, 2018
- Neither Selfish or Selfless – Only Loving! - April 30, 2018