If you write or edit, it probably won’t be long before you hear something mentioned about a writer’s “voice.”
I just finished reading Writing the Breakout Novel, by Donald Maass. He says your voice is “not only a unique way of putting words together, but a unique sensibility, a distinct way of looking at the world.”
Each one of us, when hearing a story – whether a true story or one made up – will filter that story through our own experiences and memories, morals and opinions, beliefs and perceptions about life.
If we were to relate that story to someone, it would most likely bear signs of our own opinions and thoughts in the telling.
That is, in a way, your voice. Not just the word choice or sentence structure, but the value you bring to the story. Value? you might ask. What value? Often, we don’t recognize our own value. Not just that we have something to say, but that we have something to say that someone else needs to hear. Do you? How can you know?
I just read about a popular place to die.
Yes, to die. It is a forest in Japan where people travel to commit suicide. Hundreds of people kill themselves there every year. Someone wrote a book on suicide – sadly, it turned into a bestseller – and recommended that forest as a good place to do so. Copies of the book have been found in the forest, among the final belongings of people who have hanged themselves there.
Imagine for a moment that you were there, in the forest. It is eerily quiet. They say it’s rare to hear even a bird singing. Now imagine you see someone, a young woman. She is in tears, holding a rope in her hand, ready to throw it over a tree and end her own life by hanging herself.
Assuming there is no language barrier, what would you tell her? What would you say to help lead her out of the dark forest surrounding her soul and into the light?
That she is loved? That there is hope? That her life has a purpose? How would you say it?
What’s keeping you from saying it now? No, you might not be in the forest. No one around you might seem to be either. But every heart, even the ones that appear happiest or most at peace, have their own set of struggles and the darkness that threatens to cast a shadow upon their soul.
Donald Maass also said, “To set your voice free, set your words free. Set your characters free. Most important, set your heart free. It is from the unknowable shadows of your subconscious that your stories will find their drive and from which they will draw their meaning.”
We are each given a voice, a unique one, for a reason. And that reason is to communicate. Whether your voice is used more in writing, in speaking, or in some other form of communication, don’t be afraid to let your voice be heard.
Someone needs the love and hope that your voice can give them. Maybe it will be just what gives them strength to leave the dark forest behind and discover the Light.