A speech impediment plagued my five-year old self. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t pronounce my name. The letter L was impossible, the R tricky. My name, Laurel, required mastery of one or the other. The sound that tumbled out of my mouth in an untidy heap was not my name.
Awkward, mumbling Ohwell confused anyone who asked, “What’s your name, little girl?”
How could six letters arranged to identify me be so hard to get out of my mouth? It was embarrassing, even for a little kid who shouldn’t have cared much. After all, I was loved by the people who mattered. No big deal.
Except it was a big deal.
But for reasons I didn’t understand at the time.
Voice is a unique stamp that speaks through our writing. It identifies a work as ours. It sings a melody in a way that only we’ve heard in our heads. Okay, can you tell I’m a lyricist?
A writer’s voice is unveiled in tone, it appears in theme, and peeks out in our characters. Somehow that love for children, or attraction to ordinary people rising up in impossible circumstances to accomplish the extraordinary appears no matter what genre we choose.
Uncertainty about our voice can be paralyzing if we let it. Much like me as a kid unwilling to say my name, we can compare ourselves with others or berate our ability because of missteps that show up in the editing process.
But editing is only meant to polish a gem that’s already present. The treasure of your voice and mine. It’s worth the work to define it, to fine-tune it, to let it shine for all that it is – a glimpse into our perspective unlike anyone else’s.
The key is building confidence in your voice.
What issues compel you? What do you love about people? Or despise? I like to free-write in journal form when I feel plugged up. It’s like giving myself a microphone in a karaoke bar and letting ‘er rip, not caring what potential edits hover overhead.
A public speaker practices, which hones his ability to communicate. That’s what we do as writers. Our voice comes through words on a page, in a poem, or real-life story. In an epic saga or coming of age story. It comes through our choices, our pacing – because it expresses what is unique in our viewpoint.
I read a good question via blog last night. “Ask yourself what you can bring to the story that nobody else can.” (Alexa Martin, Discovering Your Voice as a Writer)
How do I figure that out?
By writing! Voice is defined as we move forward in this journey.
Remember that when you get a manuscript back and consider, even for a moment that maybe you aren’t really a writer.
Slay that dragon! Face down that speech impediment!
Your voice matters and will grow stronger with practice and in a community who understands, like Write Well, Sell Well. (www.writewellsellwell.com)
We’re here to help. And we want to hear what you have to say.
A former high school English teacher, Laurel Thomas has written for magazines such as Guideposts, Mysterious Ways and others. In addition to her foray into fiction with her first novel, Laurel has ghosted six books and edited others. In her position as general administrator of Write Well, Sell Well OKC, she heads an amazing staff of volunteers.
Laurel holds degrees in English and Counseling. She is a chaplain for the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigations, as well as being a lay pastor at Church on the Rock, Oklahoma City, OK.