Voice: How to Find It and Keep It

The Writer

Voice. All writer’s are concerned with it, some of us consciously, others unconsciously. Some of us just write, and voice happens. But ask us to explain it, and everyone will give you a different explanation.

I’m sharing what I consider the closest definition of “voice” to how it actually applies to my writing. In other words, I feel defined by the words that I am about to share with you about voice.

The text comes from one of my favorite series of books about writing, “The Daybook of Critical Reading and Writing”. The authors are Fran Claggett, Louann Reid, and Ruth Vinz. The publisher is Houghton Mifflin Company, copyright 1998.

On page 206, the topic of “Finding a Voice” is addressed. Chosen to exemplify voice is a passage by Rudolfo Anaya, a one page extract from “An American Chicano in King Arthur’s Court.” In the extract, Anaya tells of having difficulty in writing in the way he has been taught to write, in the Anglo-Saxon tradition.

Anaya has read the works of great writers and has learned the lessons of style and craft that where taught by these authors. He tries to emulate what he has learned. Somehow, it’s not working for him. Something is wrong, and he is frustrated. Then one night he has a dream, and he is visited by a woman of wisdom, a “curandera”.

(Quote) “Write what you know… Do not fear to explore the workings of your soul, your dreams, your memory. Dive deep into the lake of your subconsciousness, your memory! Find the symbols, unlock the secrets! Learn who you really are! You can’t be a writer of any merit if you don’t know who you are!” (End of quote)

Me: Wow! What a powerful message for an aspiring writer. To be honest, for any writer. Profoundly deep in its simplicity. Reduce it to this: Be yourself. Explore yourself. Know yourself. Write what you are familiar with. Your culture, your dreams, your hopes, your opinions, your world view. Write what you know. Write…

And the result, you might ask? Don’t worry about the result. Whatever comes forth from you, will be satisfying to you, and in the end, isn’t that why you are writing in the first place? Namely, to satisfy a personal need, a desire, to tell your story, in your own words, to have your own voice, to speak for yourself, and in a form that will live forever?

Write what you know, to thine ownself be true.

You see, dear friend(s) and reader(s), that’s why I write. It is a need to say something, in such a way, that it will live on, long after I live not, giving a living testimony to the fact that I once, in fact, did live, breathe, and think, just like you too.

Voice. That’s all it is, simply being, as Shakespeare put it, “Be true to thyself”…

Best regards,

About profesorbaker

Thomas Baker is the Past-President of TESOL Chile (2010-2011). He enjoys writing about a wide variety of topics. The source and inspiration for his writing comes from his family.
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