Finding our true voices

Falling and getting up and falling and getting up

Falling and getting up and falling and getting up

The other morning Pam (Roughwighting) and I yakked on an early morning phone date.  We’ve connected with our voices on the telephone on and off for a couple of years now.  We talk about creativity, writing, mothers, dreaming, jobs, books and Hawaii.  Plus 2,021 other random things.

Pam’s taught creative writing for years.  Since I’ve never even taken an official creative writing course,  I’m fascinated about her insights.  She shares about how she guides her students to find their writing voice.  She says many folks think that writing involves thinking about what they’re writing.  Au contraire.  The opposite can be true.  One ceases to think actively and allows the gates of the mind to open and the words to flow out of the hidden recesses.  One discovers his or her voice through this process of opening and allowing the words to hatch, like fuzzy yellow baby chickens.  (Disclaimer:  Pam did not say this at all.  She never once mentioned fowl or hatching, but I am paraphrasing what her words sounded like to me.  Never fear, I’ll email her this paragraph for approval before publishing.)

I, of course, have been talking about the “typing fingers” for years.  How this process of writing involves the backward step of emptying the mind of thoughts and letting the typing fingers have their way.  Whereas in journalism and scientific writing one might attempt to frame sentences and participles in neat and rational order, creative writing takes off in a new and fresh direction.  It dashes outside the box and attempts to create something new, lively, fresh!

I love this photo.


I remember my journalism professor in college, Mr. McNamara, figuratively smacking my typing fingers with a ruler. OK, he actually said something like this, “Miss Sheldon!  You are not being a creative writer any more!  You must learn to follow journalistic rules if you want to graduate from this department!”

I sniffled and cried for about a week, but learned how to write like the journalists.  Learned how to stifle whimsy.  Learned how to kill fun (except in feature stories, where fun could be interjected in measured sentences).  Learned how to state facts without reverting to conjecture.  (Even though conjecture is inherent in everything we write, because it’s impossible to completely kill bias.) Learned how to delete flowery language and moon-eyed magic.

The joy of discovering blogging ten or more years ago resurrected the voice of the little girl who wrote story after endless story holed up in her white mahogony bedroom.

How DO we find our writing voice?  How do we discover our voice at all?  How do we learn to speak our truth in the world?  To become uniquely ourselves?

I think this matter of finding our voice is central.

A friend who teaches how to honor the human AND the divine.  How she laughs...

Finding voice–and laughter

Too often, we speak the words and thoughts and opinions we’ve learned.  We parrot what our parents said, what our teenage self thought, what our culture indoctrinated. We’re speaking leftover words, claiming them as our own without really bursting the bubble of inauthenticity which surrounds them.  They’re old, over-used, no longer bursting with new life, new baptism, new expression.

Without our voices, without our expressions of who we are, we often relegate ourselves to silence.  We don’t speak our truths.  We stand mute, or parrot old thought patterns. We become perhaps less than our full-bodied expression of our wild & beautiful lives.

What do you have to say, dear one?

What do you have to say, dear one?

Why don’t we find our voices?

I am really not sure about you, but fear has been one of my boogeymen.  Fear of looking silly, stupid, crazy, dumb, not enough.  It takes courage to express ourselves.  To be able to withstand both the inner and outer critics.

When I started blogging around 2007 or 2008, I literally shook for hours after writing a few innocuous sentences.  It felt so scary to state some spiritual truth–and to state it a big way (to maybe ten people at the time).  It felt life-threatening.  One single punch, one single disagreement, and I may have quit writing publicly forever.

Luckily, in this beginning incident, no one took offense and verbally punched.  Our inner voice may be very tentative as we take it out to play, to express, to dance.  It may be necessary for some lovin’ before it expresses deeper truths.

Overs-sized rain coat!

Trying it on for size

We often think we’re not good enough.  In our writing, perhaps, but also in our other public voices.  We compare ourselves to others.  We judge ourselves harshly.  We can’t imagine being so creative, so honest, so ridiculous, so funny, so out-there.

We stop before we start, caught in a net of not-enough.  Caught in our own noose of fear.

Yesterday, I was thinking that we all have many different voices within us.  Not just a single voice to cultivate and nod and say, “Yep, this is my voice.”  I don’t know about you, but there are 10,000 voices clamoring within.  When you open yourself to a piece of paper, or a white computer screen, and let go–how do you know WHICH voice will make a run for expression?

Will it be a funny voice, a sober voice, a vulnerable voice, a discouraged voice, a saddened voice, a happy-go-lucky one?  And can we trust that we won’t be judged by that one facet of ourselves, that one perfect imperfect sliver of ourselves?

Friends listening to fire trucks at a parade

Don’t be afraid, girls…

It’s also true that some expressions are for our eyes only.  Or for the eyes of a loving friend.  We need to feel safe before we share some things with a larger circle.  I have secrets I’ve never shared; they’re kept in a Pandora’s Box in this heart.  They’re not meant to be shared now.  Their voices flutters within like butterfly wings.  They’re precious and they’re silent and they’re not meant for daylight.  Not yet.

Perhaps we’re all finding and losing our voices all the time.  Perhaps we find a political voice and express it loudly for a while.  Then that seems to wane; we find a voice which expresses our love of nature.  That comes strong for awhile before a more creative expression bursts forth.

Reading at the Marquette Peter White Library in 2014, how scary, but liberating!

Speaking in public, oh my!

I find it interesting to watch the different interior voices rise and fall, rise and fall, like waves along the shore.  And to watch one’s silence and to notice whether it is quieting from fear or from restfulness.  Is this voice ceasing because it’s simply time to stop for now, or is it ceasing because something scared it away?

Have you found a voice that you’re comfortable sharing with the world, writing or otherwise?  Are there certain voices you’d like to nurture, to express, but you haven’t found the confidence yet?  Are there any other perspectives about finding our voices that you could share here?

About Kathy

I live in the middle of the woods in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Next to Lake Superior's cold shores. I love to blog.
This entry was posted in January 2018 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

38 Responses to Finding our true voices

  1. Kathy says:

    I. Did. Not. Publish. This. On. January 19th. Alas, WordPress says I did! (Actual date–January 22nd around 3:15 p.m.)

  2. I love your blogs my friend. I have to find a creative voice every week. As I write my column I think “what would I write to my friends?” So, the story of my life, my town and my friends is written in ink and recorded in my heart.

    • Kathy says:

      Barbie, I think of you as a person who has found your own unique particular voice. And, yes, your columns are perfect opportunities to drop into your self and find fresh stories to tell every week. I like how you put it: “written in ink and recorded in my heart.” Lovely! And thank you for comin’ by to read and comment.

  3. Ah a crash course on creative writing. And oh my, it is surely is a good one, written in a manner that only a really good writer can. I think you have probably inspired some would-be writers to let their thoughts run free with words of their inner self.

    I once had a fellow blogger and my dear cyber space friend tell me about an old Irish saying, that I think, originated from a famous writer. The saying is, “never let the truth get in the way of a good story.” Now I’m not sure if you understand this or not but you probably do since you are “quick.” If not, it means allow yourself to indulge in little embellishment or a lot. Anything to jazz up a story so that is more appealing.

    • Kathy says:

      What a good point you make, Yvonne! And one must be very sharp indeed to read creative writing in a non-literal way, discerning where the truth is dancing hand-and-hand with metaphor. I’m not sure it’s always about jazzing up a story so it’s more appealing. For me, it’s about placing the metaphors in a way that opens the heart and mind of the reader. It’s about allowing another perspective to seep through the open windows of our perception. If it’s only to jazz up a story, then it’s only hollow and not really true. If it’s to expand a person’s understanding into other possibilities…then it’s more about an open window and not a literal closed one. It’s about connecting with the language of the heart, which can propel real shifts in perception. Thank you for sharing YOUR thoughts!

      • Kathy says:

        For example, the only line in this whole post that is not literally true is about “fuzzy yellow chickens hatching”. And the next sentence states clearly that it’s only metaphor. The rest is as true as this heart can make it.

      • My idea is a bit different from yours. When I write to provide information it is as correct as it can possibly be after I have done my research. Here I am tqlking about my blog. I have written a few pet stories that are based on truth as I was told or witnessed, But after years have passed, memory is not always 100% correct and that is when I must fudge on details that complete the story or else my little, story would be left hanging in the air. This is where “don’t let the truth stand in the way of a good story.

        I do agree that if you are writing as a journalist then it needs to be truthful. I did not imply that one needs to exergerate in order to produce a worthy story. In the end- I don’t consider myself a writer and never will be one. But I do admire your writing ability- it is always entertaiing and I like how your words flow with creative thoughts.

  4. john K says:

    Thank you … just so you know I am listening and enjoying ,,, thank you

  5. Stacy says:

    You’re right, Kathy – I think we have many voices. There are the many shades of ourselves; much the way an object differs in the sunlight and shadows. XO

    • Kathy says:

      Thank you, Stacy! I like how you state how objects differ in sunlight and shadows. Isn’t that true? Thank you for letting your voices shine through…

  6. debyemm says:

    I understand this allowing the gates of the mind to open and words to flow out of the typing fingers because that is the way I write. So much so, I was once asked if I was channeling when I wrote. Maybe, I dunno, I’m not aware of it in that way.

    I do remember not feeling “good enough” among so many shining stars at Zaadz, like you, like Cheyenne – thankfully I got over that.

    I am looking forward to working through this origins story of mine in the form of historical fiction – meaning all the for certain stuff I know now but told like fiction, with dialog. I will have to find the “voice” for each of these ancestors I never met as well as the easier task with the “family” I knew.

    Of course, in a very real way, I realize ALL of them will be “me”.

    I’m sharing your blog with our writer’s guild because it might prove useful to some of my fellow writers there. I hope you don’t mind.

    • Kathy says:

      Deb, how interesting! Do you think there were some ways in which Cheyenne and I, and others, came forth with too strong a voice? That we somehow eclipsed the voices of others? I wonder this even here. When one feels confident and assured in one’s voice, sometimes it feels like other voices may become less confident and assured. I am not sure how to moderate this to allow and nurture the voices of others. Perhaps there might have been a way to be more vulnerable…I do not know.

      Thank you, anyway, for sharing with your writer’s guild. And thank you for being a steadfast friend…

      • debyemm says:

        No, neither you nor Cheyenne did anything “wrong”. I would not have wanted either of you to be “less”. I treasure you both because you are as you are. This issue was only my own and I’ve gained confidence and assurance in my own voice since then. It’s called evolving ? I can’t imagine how you could be even more vulnerable than you already are. It is part of what is so beautiful about you !! Fondly.

        • Kathy says:

          Deb, your comment here means so much to me. Thank you for the reassurance about being vulnerable enough. You are the second person who has said so in the last 24 hours, so perhaps it comes off that way. I would like to be fully transparent in writing, but feel that so much stays hidden, unspoken. Partly because it’s impossible to put into words; partly because I feel others won’t understand; partly because I’m still afraid. My favorite authors are those who are vulnerable, real, wise, open, not afraid to express their fear. Fondly appreciating you a lot these days.

  7. Carol says:

    I prefer opening my mind and letting words fall out, all on their own, when I blog – and that might be why my blogs are happening less frequently lately. Because in this world today the words that push to be released are words of frustration, irritation, futility – not words people want to hear these days. I don’t want to suck others into this darkness with me, those who seem better able to turn our dysfunctional world off than I.

    • Kathy says:

      Carol, thank you for sharing your frustrations in these times. Irritation and futility are true emotions rising forth in us, but how to express them in ways that can be heard? And when we feel that our voice is (or cannot be) nurtured, what do we do then? I don’t have the answers. Only more questions.

  8. Brenda says:

    Dear Kathy, When I write, the words often flow freely and make my fingers dance at the keyboard. That is, until the worries creep in about my spelling, questions about my memories, doubts about anyone else wanting to read my words, and how on earth could I even get anything published.. Then I get stuck. I freeze. And the writing stops for awhile. I wish I could just write my legacy without all those worries because I really think there is a story that needs to be told. And now during the winter when the world outside is covered in a new 12-16 inches of heavy, wet snow, I feel like writing again. I feel like visiting with that young woman who endured so much pain and heartache and became the woman I am today. Thank you for opening my eyes and inspiring the words to flow again. ❤

    • Kathy says:

      Brenda, you’ve so aptly described what happens to us when fears get in the way. I have felt that same fears about no one else wanting to read, questionable memories, doubts, etc. It seems like–somehow–we have to face those fears in order to continue, to tease out our true voices. You surely DO have a story to be told! But how to lasso those fears and convince yourself to continue, no matter what, because you are stronger than your fears. (I remember writing a novel for NaNoWriMo and being convinced it was awful. But they urge you to continue writing without letting the inner critic get in the way. When you take out the editing pen much later, then the critic can have input. But not until then!) Hopefully you will visit that young woman once again. As for snow, I just shoveled off the deck (in two sessions) of 11 inches of snow. Still out of breath…

      • Brenda says:

        Thank you for understanding and for all the encouragement! Some days, the call to write is too strong to question or ignore so I do write. Mostly it’s ramblings or bits and pieces of memories that I hope someday will fit together like a puzzle. I try hard to not overthink everything when I write but it doesn’t always work. So, getting encouragement from seasoned writers like yourself, really helps me. Thank you, Kathy! ❤

  9. As I write this, I now see tiny fuzzy yellow chicks popping out of my key board. How did you DO that? Ah, the power of words and imagination and creativity. And the power of letting it all go as we type or write on a lined piece of paper. I agree with your reader debyemm – it feels as if we’re channeling something when we let go and watch the words come forth. WHAT are we channeling? Parts of ourselves? Perhaps. The universe? More likely. That’s how I feel, anyway. And I love Yvonne’s thoughts from the quote of never letting the truth get in the way. I’ve used that quote in my writing classes. In other words, if you’re writing a story about the time the professor started to laugh uproariously in the classroom, and then he couldn’t stop, and then it got scary, and the department head raced in to stop the chaos, as a writer, you don’t want to stop and think “Was the professor bald? brunette? tall? did he wear a vest or a sweater?” Noooo. You write the story from your own truth inside, and it may be ‘fictionalized’ in some ways, but it’s still the truth!
    Here’s to writing our own truths, Kathy, with no fear, but with only love for the mystical way our words teach us about the world…and each other. xo

    • Kathy says:

      Pam, wonderful! I like how you expanded on Deb and Yvonne’s comments. And then I wanted to read more about that professor! Yep, so right, some of those little details perhaps just need to be fictionalized up a bit. May the words continue to teach us about the world…and thanks again for being a big inspiration during this snowy shoveling plowing roof-raking month of January!

  10. This really hits home for me. I’ve been thinking about how to use my blog to better promote my art…yet it immediately seems narrowing and “not my style.” I’ve been toying with starting another blog specifically for art pursuits, but kind of know that – being not my style – it would soon be left by the wayside. Art is a big part of my life, but so is my job at the hardware, my dogs, my garden, my walks down the Fox Lake Road…and the weather .And my unique life. And my own special memories and history! And my moods! I have to be able to go on an occasional self-pitying, complaining rant, or what is the point? I don’t think I could maintain a blog where those things were not reflected. Maybe, as retirement makes art a larger part of my life, my blog will better reflect that. We’ll see. Lovely post, Kathy!

    • Kathy says:

      Cindy, so glad to hear it hits home for you! You do have such a unique big beautiful multi-faceted blog. I do wonder about starting other blogs to more accurately express where I’m at now (and have in the past) but there are just so many internal voices that beg to come forth. Guess we’ll just have to see what unfolds for us. But I am glad, really glad, that this post spoke to you.

  11. Kathy — I’m in total agreement with your sentiment that “we all have many different voices within us.”

    • Kathy says:

      Laurie, I’ll never forget taking Voice Dialogue classes near your old home of Chicago many years ago. And realizing–Wow!–there are so many parts of ourselves. That recognition has been key in this life, and has informed so much. Thank you for reading.

  12. Bonnie says:

    And once again there you are standing right there in my little room, speaking directly to me, and when you are finished I say, “please tell me again, so I can soak it all in.” I want to write, have even tried a short story, which now sits dying on the Barney and Belinda site, and in a hidden folder. Fear? Maybe. Not gifted enough? Probably. I even have trouble letting go a bit when I write my blog. Thank you Kathy. I am so happy you are blogging again.

    • Kathy says:

      Bonnie, I love when you say that. Isn’t it such a great feeling when we read something that speaks directly to our heart? I guess I would just want to encourage you to put your fear and “not gifted enough” thoughts into a tucked-away box and let your desire come free. Don’t worry about not being good enough or who would ever read it. Just PLAY! Have fun! Amuse yourself with a few misspelled words and terrible sentence. Write for the JOY of it! (I must return and read this myself some day when some form of fear comes to hatchet away the joy of writing or sharing or whatever…)

  13. Lori says:

    Oh boy. Lots I could share on this topic. Before I post one of my philosophical, deeper blogs, I re-read it and edit it a million times. Sometimes, like today’s, I click publish and ask the Universe for it to be understood the way I mean for it to be understood.

    In the past, I used to write and re-write even comments on blogs, boards and other social media. I didn’t want to say the wrong thing to people. I wanted to be understood. Over time, I’ve given up on worrying about my comments. I just type them out now as if I’m talking to a friend in person. Sometimes I check for typos before posting a comment, sometimes I don’t. Comments are now my first thoughts.

    So, as I continue with all these “first thoughts” about this topic, the novel I’ve been writing for quite some time now keeps getting me stuck. I have a voice in the novel. I know what I want to do and where I want the plot to go, but I don’t know anyone who’d be interested in reading such an unusual story. That is why I keep getting stuck. People say we should write for ourselves, but why would I put words out there on blogs or books if I didn’t want others to read them (and get feedback)?

    Thanks for this fun topic, Kathy.

    • Kathy says:

      Lori, it was so interesting to read your thoughts here. REALLY interesting! I like how you have found a way to navigate around that tendency to edit yourself so strictly. It sounds like you were able to slowly let go of that fear of being understood a bit. It’s weird. I am thinking “out loud” right now like we were in a person-to-person conversation. I really want to be understood too, but somewhere said “to heck with it” and just started writing and publishing. But sometimes I have thoughts which get irritated afterward because I don’t feel understood–in the way that it was meant. However, it helps when it’s seen that maybe no one–ever–can see things in the exact way we intend. And others are going to react to certain words, phrases, sentences because they have different meanings attached than we do. My meanings and beliefs (and perhaps yours) are different than many of the cultural ways others interpret. So of course there will be misunderstanding. It’s almost implicit in human conversation.

      I guess the continual conversation keeps clearing up what we mean when say different things. I have one friend from California where we’ve painstakingly discovered a common language over 19 years. Now it’s like we can understand each other deeply–but still there are areas of misunderstanding because our beliefs are always changing and developing.

      Wow–this was long–thanks for getting morning thoughts rolling! Oh, and yes, the conundrum between writing for ourselves and wanting others to read. I am not sure how to “solve” that one. It’s a dance, Lori, and what a dance it is…

  14. Amy says:

    Love the photo captions best of all here! They remind me of the British humor in Economist photo captions. So see–some whimsy CAN creep into journalism…

    • Kathy says:

      You are probably right, Amy! The captions flew out of the typing fingers in ten seconds each, with very little thought. So someone in the Universe must love adding a bit of whimsy at times!

  15. Robin says:

    Wonderful post, Kathy, and so timely. I recently wrote about voice, too, and have been pondering my own 10,000 voices. I had to laugh when I read about your first posts and how you literally shook when you published them. So did I! lol! And oh my goodness, I was TERRIFIED when I was Freshly Pressed the first time. All those people coming by and reading my blog! I wanted to shut it up and hide. lol!!

    Thank you for another perspective on voice. I loved the photos you picked to go with this because it is a reminder (or my interpretation which may differ from your intent) that there is still the young girl within who wants to express her voice once in a while, too. 🙂

    • Kathy says:

      Robin, can you tell me which post you wrote about voice? I am hoping to read some blogs this weekend, but don’t want to miss that one. Laughing about your Freshly Pressed reaction. I was so mesmerized by the stats that I couldn’t leave the computer and got literally sick to my stomach by day’s end. It was like the most wonderful and awful experience rolled all together.

      Glad you liked the photos. I asked the Universe what illustrations would best serve these thoughts. Then went to the Media file (thousands of photos there) and typed in the word “voice” in the search engine. A few suggestions came up. Then typed in “voic” and more came up. Finally typed in “v” and these are the ones the Universe decided. LOL! (I am not sure which inner voice came up with that idea. Life cracks me up at times.)

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