Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Losing Your Voice

Over the past three weekends, I've been volunteering at an event called The 99. The number 99 represents the 99 teens and young people who die every day in the United States due to preventable causes, like drugs, reckless driving, gang violence, and suicide. The 99 event is a walk-through reality theater graphically depicting those things. I was thrilled to be a part of something that has radically changed many lives so far and brought awareness to communities all around the country.

Well, this past weekend, I volunteered as a cast member and was required to scream on and off for about 5 hours. For someone who doesn't use her "loud voice" very often, this took a toll. Let's just say I didn't get much sleep because of my burning sore throat and when I woke up Sunday morning, my voice had pretty much disappeared (much to the delight of my children).

As writers, we talk a lot about voice: what it means, and how to create one. The truth is, you can't really create a voice because your voice is simply you. Every writer has a different one because every writer is unique. It's that certain something that comes across the page to let readers know it's you. Have you ever picked up a book without knowing who the author was, read a few pages and said, "This sounds like Stephen King" or "I know Danielle Steele wrote this." If so, you're identifying that author's voice.

I've known writers who try to imitate a voice. But when you try to write like so-and-so author, it's like you're taking on a role like I did this weekend. Sure, it's ok to try your hand at different styles and genres, but your voice shines through only when you talk like yourself.

One of the biggest compliments I've received as a writer is that I have a good voice. It's almost like they're saying they like "me" because I am my voice.

I encourage you to bare yourself on those pages. If you want people to hear you, to know you, to remember you, don't try to scream and force your writing vocal chords. This will not help you find your personal voice. In fact, it will only guarantee that you lose it.

Take it from me (she whispers, hoarsely)


kathy taylor said...


What a wonderful entry, and I am hoping that your voice is now healed. Working with the 99 sounds like a wonderful experience, and I am confident you have blessed many.

When we cannot use our physical voices, the written word becomes almost sacred.

For many years I had episodes of not being able to talk without experiencing "electrocution" type pains. Many, many people did not have email then, but I communicated via fax machines, hand-written notes, and sometimes email. My voice became simple and direct. The English major voice died, and a staccato voice emerged. Now I can talk without pain, and I thank God for an ability to speak. In writing, I recognize my voice from work to work. I don't know if others will. What a great question.

Joanne Sher said...

This is a SUPER analogy/reminder, Lynda! So true.

quietspirit said...

You raise a good point. We have our own styles of saying things. My physical voice changes-if I am upset with my family, they know it. If I try to get their attention, they recognize that as well. When I am calm and mellow, they like that best.
Years ago, a dear friend played the wicked witch in "The Wizard of Oz." They group did at least three performances. She couldn't talk for a week.

Caroline said...

Linda, super post. And the 99 event sounds like a wonderful adventure to support. Perfect analogy, too. Loved it. :)

Karen Lange said...

It does sound like a good thing (except for the losing your voice part:)

I've had people tell me that my writing sounds like me. I'm thinking this is a good thing as I continue my writing journey.

Blessings and happy weekend,