Voice is the natural way we tend to use words, rhythm, flavor, syntax, imagery, etc. to express ourselves. It develops naturally over time in any form of writing we practice be it fiction, technical, or personal, and becomes something that we and others can distinguish from the voices of other writers as our ability grows. What I love about voice is the recognizable power in one’s ability to wield words. When an author has a strong voice, we feel like they are in control of what they are saying and doing with those words, and we learn to trust where those words take us accordingly.
Lately there have been moments where I’ve wonder if writing a particular story or discussing certain things is a good idea. On topics where I have a strong opinion, I want to avoid “preachiness,” or hammering home a particular point or agenda in a story. Raising questions and letting the readers draw their conclusions from the situations I’ve created is usually more effective at getting my message across. But I also want to be careful not to create something I would otherwise consider “inappropriate” just because I can.
As I’ve ventured into uncharted territory, what makes me decide to keep going after I get discouraged with a story on one of these ends is whether I can stop and hear my voice in the passage I’ve written when I re-read it. There are things I care about, things at my core that I wouldn’t want to betray under any circumstances. My psyche knows it too, and because of the decisions I make everyday about how I live my life my subconscious actively protects the things I care about. It has ways of illuminating whether something doesn’t jive with my core values. If the words I read back feel so natural I can hear myself, my heart, my soul, my sincerity in the piece, my desire to understand something and invite others to understand something better, I keep going even though it’s painful because I know there’s something genuine and worthwhile in what I’ve put on the page.
There are also things I have strong feelings about but I don’t always have a calm explanation for those opinions. The thought of having something I feel passionately about unravel simply because I can’t explain my point of view is terrifying, and I think we all feel that way about something. Sometimes we just keep those opinions to ourselves and don’t go there because we know it’s going to become a point of contention and possibly an exchange of stupid things we don’t really mean to say if we do. Sometimes we go on a crusade to defend those things and the result is the same. Other times circumstances arise where we feel we should voice those things we feel strongly about but we feel how overzealous or inadequate our contributions might be.
There are things we all feel deeply about but we don’t fully know why. It’s easy to get close-minded, defensive, and really really “preachy” in these situations. Let me just say that when you’re being “preachy,” you can’t hear your voice either. You can’t hear your voice because what you’re saying is forced. You’re not showing the reader what you believe, you’re telling them. Your voice isn’t as strong and isn’t as powerful when it’s forced. But that doesn’t mean you should never express something you feel passionate about. I think the key is recognizing that what we believe and how we explain or justify it are not necessarily tied. This seems to be a theme for me lately, but don’t be afraid to ask questions and adjust your point of view. Trust your core values to be able to stand on their own and shine through your pursuit. Trust your heart. Trust your voice.