Guest Post: Finding your voice – By Terry Price
Terry Price, is a Tennessee based writer and photographer, with an MFA in writing from Spalding University in Louisville. He is a former Program Director and current mentor in MTSU Write (formerly The Writer’s Loft) creative writing program at Middle Tennessee State University. (www.mtsu.edu/write). He works with creatives one on one and leads workshops and retreats. He is also a labyrinth facilitator and leads workshop on using the labyrinth as both a spiritual and creative tool. His work has appeared in Writer’s Notes magazine, Bloodlotus, The Trunk, The Tennessee Writer, New Southerner and The Best of New Southerner and 2nd & Church. He has had two pieces nominated for the Pushcart Prize. You can find more of his work at www.terryprice.net and today, Terry shares his experience as a writer and creative coach to discuss how to find your voice as a writer.
I’ve worked with writers for many years now. I’ve coached and mentored beginning writers and reviewed manuscripts for those with experience. There are thousands of pieces of advice one can give the writer and almost as many books about writing on the market and more being published each day.
I’ve attended many author readings and signings and during the subsequent Q&A, those in attendance often ask similar questions of the author:
Do you write in the morning or the afternoon?
Do you use a pen and paper or a computer?
Do you write at home or in a coffee shop?
There are many more questions from prospective writers hoping to get some insight as to the “magic” of producing a work. And while I do believe in the existence of magic and have experienced it through my art, it is not at the heart of writing. The heart of writing is…well, your heart.
It’s simplistic, but true that there has never been anyone exactly like you. Nor will there ever be.
Salvador Dali was a bit more personal. “Every morning when I wake up, I experience an exquisite joy —the joy of being Salvador Dalí— and I ask myself in rapture: What wonderful things is this Salvador Dalí going to accomplish today?”
In art we talk about finding your voice. Years ago, I heard a poet being interviewed by Terry Gross on the public radio program, Fresh Air and she asked him about finding his voice. He said that he used to imagine sweeping his kitchen and upon moving the refrigerator to sweep beneath there, lo and behold, he would find his voice! He then got serious and went on to give the best definition I’ve heard:
“Finding your voice is telling your story in a way only you can tell it.”
That’s it. There is where you discover the magic.
Somehow, especially with newer writers, we either believe we have nothing new to say or our confidence is not strong enough to believe we can tell it in our own way. And that’s one of the surest ways to experience what we call writer’s block.
There is the old analogy of multiple people seeing a car accident. And if you ask each to tell what happened, they will each tell a different story. That’s because they all have different perspectives, different angles, different levels of paying attention.
Same accident. Different stories.
It’s the same with our writing. I grew up in the 1960’s in Nashville, Tennessee. I went to grade school, middle school, and high school with lots of friends and you could easily say that we pretty much went through the same things together. And we did. But ask any two of us to describe specific things and I promise you that we’ll end up with different stories.
Never allow yourself to be convinced you don’t have anything “new” to say. Your story is your story. Even if it happened to a thousand other people, it’s your story.
Okay, you say, but I’ll never write it like Harper Lee, or Hemingway, or Rowling.
Each of those writers has their style. They found their voice.
How, you ask.
By writing. You string lovely words together and you keep doing it. You don’t worry about who is going to read them and you don’t worry about whether they ever find their way outside of your journal or hard drive. You just write them. And it doesn’t matter what time of day works best for you. And it doesn’t matter where you write as long as it works for you.
Author of legal thrillers, Scott Turow, wrote his second book, Presumed Innocent, by hand during his morning train commute to his Chicago job as a prosecuting attorney.
Read voraciously. Read things close to your heart because, you will find, that things you love to read are things that will resonate with your writing. Read craft books. Talk with other writers.
Continue to look, listen, and learn but never abdicate that which makes you, you. Never abdicate that which makes your writing, yours. When you receive advice, listen to it with your heart and if it feels right, then incorporate it into your work and it will make your voice stronger. If there is conflict with your heart, then disregard it and it, too, will make your voice stronger.
I could read you an otherwise indistinguishable passage from To Kill a Mockingbird and, likely, you’d know it was Lee’s work. How? Her voice. Same with Hemingway and Rowling. You may be a fan or you might not care about their work at all but they found their voices and they used them.
Find yours. Then, you’ll discover the true magic of writing. Because it will be your magic.
firstname.lastname@example.org – www.terryprice.net – www.westofthemoonretreat.com
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