How do you learn to know your voice? How can you find the connection points in your life and yourself, and know when you’re really connecting to the stories you’re meant to tell?
I teach voice a lot, and I love that moment when a light comes on for a writer, when their eyes show that slight shock, sometimes a distinct discomfort. I love it when I feel it myself, too, that sharp, intense feeling of connection.
Often, I’ve said to you here that I believe you were meant to be a writer. You wouldn’t be pursuing this difficult and challenging work if there were some way you could get out of it. I strongly believe you were meant to tell your own, particular, unique, individual, only-you-can-tell-them stories.
How do you know what those are? How can you see your own voice? One way is to look back at the journey you’ve taken in your writing so far. What are your favorite bits of writing? What are your best? Don’t just look at published or polished work. Take a wander backward and see what you see in your whole body of work.
The best way I can illuminate that path is to share some points in mine.
Even as a small child, I made up story-songs, and spun stories to myself, but the first thing I remember writing that really connected was in the fifth grade. A very short story about an old man dying on his birthday, and his regret over his relationship with his son. It contains a detail about flies, buzzing too lazily in the heat to even move off a ledge, which I took out of my own life, a very uncomfortable sad moment when my dad’s dad came to see us and I was alone in the house. I had no idea what to say to him so I sort of skulked around, peeking at him on the patio. He stood there with his hands in his pockets, tall and white haired, staring out at something in the distance. We were strangers to each other, even though we lived in the same town. Eventually, he left, and I felt both relieved and embarrassed. The story emerged from my discomfort.
That was the first time I really connected to the page. [Read more…]