Sunday, April 19, 2009

Saturday Soirée - Listen for your voice

It isn't necessary only to find and nurture your voice but also to listen for it. For then you will be able to detect subtle or nor so subtle changes that may indicate a deviation from the truth and individuality of the story you want to tell. Listen also for hints of the fear of negative responses, doubts about your ability and even unintended compromise that dilutes your writing.

I offer three suggestions to help you maintain your authenticity and recognize when or where you may have strayed from your true voice.

1. Journal often and freely not only about the facts, feelings and dreams of your life, but about the things you want to write about. Journaling (minus editing) puts you in touch with your purest emotions and helps you to speak authentically and passionately on the page, with words that come easily and naturally. When you move from your journal to writing that first draft, you bring with you a fuller understanding of the topic. More important, you also bring the clarity and passion of a writer who knows her heart and is able to tell her story in her unique voice and without contamination.

2. Write without inhibitions and leave editing for later. When you edit while writing your first draft, you shush your voice. You may unknowingly direct it to speak a different truth and your inner editor may suggest words and emotions from a place other than your heart and convince you that they are yours.

3. Read your written work not only for visible errors in structure, grammar, vocabulary and spelling. Instead, read as if you have a magnified ear, seeking and ensuring that the piece resonates with your voice, speaking your truth and telling your story, in your words.

When you re-read your work, do you hear your voice?


Joanne said...

I like the ideas you bring up here. I never really thought of journaling as a way to bring greater understanding and passion to a subject/voice, and will definitely remember that. I usually do hear my voice in my re-reads, and have noticed that places where doubt may come through, or insecurities, are usually flagged by weakening words that weaken the piece's voice. For instance, in your post, you don't qualify your opinions by saying "I have found ..." or "For me..." When these excess phrases are removed, the authority is so much stronger.

Terri Tiffany said...

This was a needed post for me. I struggle with finding my voice as I self edit too much. As I write the book I'm writing now, I'm doing what you said. ANd for the first time, I think I am finding it:)

Cheryl Wright said...

Hey Joanne,

Funny (not the Ha ha kind), you should mention the absence of "I have found" and "For me...".

They were not in my first draft but, critic on my should suggested that they should be. I acquiesed but on re-reading, the post felt too starchy, which is not my style, voice or intent for this blog. I followed my heart, my own advice and let the post speak with my voice.

You are very perceptive Joanne or sharp as we say here in Trinidad.

Cheryl Wright said...

Good morning Terri,

And it is wonderful isn't it? Liberating too.

If we expect readers to listen to what we say in our writing, it must speak with our voice. Whether it is an essay, an article, a story or a book, our work must resonate with us first.

Some heavy-researched and fact-based pieces demand personal distance but some element of our voice still makes its way in there.

Our writing is richer, deeper, more meaningful and more successful whether we drench or sprinkle it with our voice.

I wish all this for your new book.

Jan said...

Excellent advise, once again! I particularly enjoy reading my work aloud. It truly makes a difference to listen to the interplay of words, their timbre and tone, and how they roll together--or conflict with one another. To me, that is one of the finest points of writing.

I was urged to do this after reading May Sarton's journals. Have you reading them? One summer I dedicated an entire summer to read as many of her books as I could find. (I named it my "Sarton Summer."Because she was a poet who often gave oral, public readings, she was very sensitive to the marriage of words. Though I don't consider myself a poet, writing itself in just about any form, can be poetic...And the "rules" can still apply. :-)

Happy writing today! (I am traveling and missing my writing and blogging. Sneaking in when I can with my hubbies laptop. xxxooo)

Cheryl Wright said...


I thought you might be traveling.

I love reading writers' journals and have been through May Sarton's Journal of a Solitude (my favorite so far) and The House by the Sea.

I see myself and many of my thoughts and feelings about solutide and journaling in these two books.

Magnolia said...

I'm reading yet another book on writing.....yes, I'm addicted ;)

"If You Want To Write" by Brenda Ueland. Wow. What a book.

She devotes an entire chapter to creativity, how to tap into it and hear your voice.

She says we need to devote time to "moodling" which is simply quiet daydreaming, pondering, thinking and twiddling with your hair (I swear, she said that)

She said we spend too much time trying to force writing itstead of letting it rise to the surface.'s a wonderful book and it has resonated with me.

Cheryl Wright said...


I understand only too well why Brenda Ueland's advice to not force writing will resonate with you.

Go forth now, moodle and let your writing rise to the surface.

james oh said...

You are great. You bring all these significant pertinent issues, which otherwise be neglected.

My answer to your question is both yes and no. Depending on many factors at that particular moment.

Thanks and have a great day everyday,

Cheryl Wright said...

Hello James Oh,

Thank you. Blessings to you.

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