Friday, September 10, 2010

Don't find your voice

Voice is a confusing concept. Everyone says "Find your voice." That's what every writer must do eventually, with time. Practice. I agree...

But, not really. My current concept of voice is more like this:
(Or so I discovered today as I had the most emotional release I've ever had from writing fiction. It was like intense pent-up journaling. I cried after writing my first scene today. Cried. Writing fiction has never made me cry before.)
We have so many voices in our heads. Characters and critics. Goofballs and meanie-heads. Some want to sabbotage us. Some want to sway. When the voice is weak, it isn't because the writer doesn't have a voice, its because he has too many.

So, I say: Don't find your voice. Listen.

Listen to just one voice at a time. You are the filter. Your voice is actually your ear. Your characters are the speakers. Listen to one voice with one ear at a time.

Focus on the narrator first and foremost hearing no one but your narrator. When its time for dialogue, listen to the other characters, but never loose connection to the narrator (whether in 1st or 3rd) because they are still telling who to listen to and how.

Don't find. Filter.

Filtering your voice is a lot like growing up. You slough off all of those things that other people wanted you to be, that you wanted you to be, and you're left with the common denominator. The core. The thing that needs to be said.

Your voice is already there. The question is: what, if anything, or who, if anyone, is blocking it? Give your narrator the mic.

You may be thinking, but I'm supposed to have the voice, not my narrator. Your narrator is a part of you. So as long as you are listening, really listening, to what the narrator needs to say, then you will be the one who is speaking.


  1. I think you hit the nail on the head with this, sometimes you need to give your narrator a little freedom.

  2. Dayana, I have enjoyed reading your blog as you add more and more posts. Its almost hard to imagine that, among all the thinking about writing, you actually have time TO write.

    Also, it's been particularly interesting reading your blogs from the point of view of a poet. Essentially, we struggle with a lot of the same concepts: story-telling, brevity, editing, scrapping on version for a whole `nother one. Your words, though you speak of writing fiction, have inspired the uninhibited poet in me, and also refueled the critical poet in me.

    Who is to say how great or awful my poetry is....? I don't know. I don't care either. All I know is I have my own personal Wrogan, and if I don't feed it, I feel unhealthy in my physical being.

    You recently wrote about criticism and how you long for it. As do I. Unfortunately, I feel it's harder to find poetical critics than it is to find musical/film/prose critics.......everyone seems to think "poetry is hard" "I don't understand it" "I'm not supposed to understand it" (which is all sometimes true, but these insecurities in my audience are the bane of my poetical existence!!)

    I suppose I just felt it was time that I send you a message to say thank you for making my art feel a little less lost in the world, in myself. And I am plotting schemes to make poetry a part of my life, especially in the sharing of it.

    And.....feel free to take what you will from this LONG comment, but my hope is that it uplifts your heart to know I'm reading, sympathizing, and internalizing your exploration of the writing process.

  3. Shoot! I forgot to mention that this particular post about voice especially spoke to me today. It's a difficult task, to push oneself to experiment with new expression, and in poetry it's every bit as important to remember to hold onto MY voice, even when I'm writing from another perspective/point of view. Otherwise I begin to sound like a bukowski/eliot/cummings/frost knock off.......and no one wants to hear/read that. haha

  4. I took a lot from this comment! Thanks for it. You'd think I wouldn't have enough time to write, except that I don't have a job so I actually have a lot of time to write. But I admittedly spend too much time writing about writing. It is definitely a nasty little habit. I have an odd relationship with poetry. Sometimes I love reading it and a poem can be just what I need and other times I feel like everyone else, that I don't get it. But you my dear are really really good. You always have been. I remember being very moved by your poems many years ago.
    Ugggh writing about writing is such a trap. I have two scenes to do today and they are KILLING me. Blah. Thanks for reading and commenting. Some people get all caught up in the followers crud, but I just have to do this for me.
    The main point of my long comment is this: your poetry rocks.

  5. Thanks for the viewpoint!

    My week has been....I'm too tired to discuss it.

    hope you are well, D!

    Swing by my Friday post if can...

    (I'm inordinately proud of the effect I achieve when you listen to the song and watch the slide show.)

  6. Voice takes time. But it comes, the more we write. I love reading posts and how everyone defines it!

  7. That's an intersting way of thinking about it. Gotta give it some mulling over.