I recently spent some time talking with a woman who wants to find her voice. She has stories. She has something to say. She's not quite sure what those stories are or what she really wants to say.
I know exactly what she means, and I know how creative writing can help her. I know that she will feel fed and encouraged and challenged by a group writing experience. I know she will emerge more confident, more whole, changed for good.
I told this woman that my workshop would help her find her voice.
But that's a little bullshit.
Fifteen years into this game, three books, hundreds of magazine clips, and I still can't define voice.
I have very little understanding of whether or not something I've written is "in my voice" or not. I mean, I wrote it. So it's my voice, right?
All I know is when I'm not too self-conscious, my writing elicits more of a response. When I'm less polished, I seem to connect better with people. When I don't have an agenda, the point usually emerges better than when I know what I want to say.
Whatever my "voice" is, it's not something I'm always in control of. The Voice comes through me. And lest you think I'm hearing some kind of divine call or suffering delusions of grandeur-- it's not like that.
Not that there's anything wrong with that.
My voice is a mess of what I'm thinking, feeling, processing, filtered through the particular circumstances of a given day.
How could I possibly do that on purpose?
I'm not sure voice is something we can make happen. Finding your voice is really about letting go of everything that's in the way.
Finding your voice is about letting yourself shine through all the filters you've built up for the purpose of being socially acceptable.
For the purpose of being a good girl.
For the purpose of being lovable.
Finding your voice is possibly the most radical act of modern, privileged, always-on, perpetually plugged-in society.
It's a never-ending process, and it takes practice.
Lots and lots of practice. Plus feedback.
I don't know if the woman I spoke with will feel like she's found her voice after spending six weeks in a workshop. What I do know is that she will get to practice using her voice, trusting her voice, and learning how others respond to her voice.
That's a very good start.