One of the greatest compliments I have ever received as a writer was also one of the greatest revelations.
‘I was sitting in a café, and I picked up a magazine and started reading a story about a tea sommelier, and I got about half way through and thought to myself ‘Lindy wrote this’,” said a friend to me recently.
I was unprepared for the wave of emotion that rippled through me at being seen and known that intimately. Writing is such a public display of an inner reality and when I self-critique I am quick to chastise myself for being too pedestrian.
Yet here was someone who saw into and through the words and saw the part of me, that authentic writer, that had left a trace of herself despite her own recriminations. I had written something that had written me.
It was a beautiful feeling, full of relief, and surrender.
Last year I mentored a young man through a writing project he did for his year 12 assessments. When it came to giving a presentation reflecting on his process, I found myself offering the group – quite unpreparedly – an insight into the real achievement this young man’s year had held – he had found his unique voice. I knew he was the author of his stories without needing to read a byline. He was so young, so tentative, so in need of an editor – but he had voice.
This truth is voice is not easy to master. Too often we attempt to mimic others – a bestselling author, someone we admire, someone who does not know us nor do we know them. Too often we lack confidence in our own ‘way to be with the words’ and fall into the safety net of sameness presented in writing courses and how to books. It can take years to find our writing voices, but I also think it can be a simple moment where we absolutely fall into ourselves and let our writerly way roam free in authenticity, courage and respect.
Write one million words and always sound like somebody else (often nameless) or write one word and be real. Really.
Voice is a relationship between words and rhythm and intention and energy and knowing and vocabulary and spirit and grammar and cadence and tone and presence.
Voice cannot be imitated or forced. I’m not sure we can even truly name our voice, but we can know it and allow it to live its own life through our writing – a kind of muse that brings juice to the page.
If I think about the article I wrote that was apparently so recognisable as ‘my voice’ I am immediately transported back to how I wrote that piece. I was passionately engaged in the topic, I was still humming with the delightful time I’d had interviewing the subject, and I was totally overwhelmed and in that headspace that so often starts my process that screams at me ‘you can’t do this justice’.
Voice then is my Joan of Arc, that force that rescues me and brings an aliveness to my words. I write ‘in the shape’ of this force and the words that follow are distilled from a deeper place in me than ‘thinking’ can form.
I am a voice that is the sum of my lifetime, of that which I have found precious, of words that hold meaning and music that runs underneath the madness that keeps this crazy song going. Voice is what I leave on the page, more than words – although the words I choose are most certainly essential elements in voice.
When I write in my unique voice, there seems to always be someone who is touched, someone who sees me, someone who finds their own meaning within mine. And that is the reward of writing, and why if you just do one thing to ‘be a writer’ it’s the most delicious, heart pumping, act of fortitude to simply write your voice.
The magazine article is ‘The True nature of Tea’ available to read in my portfolio.
©Lindy Schneider www.lindyschneider.com.au