I had been wanting to talk about shaping your inner voice in a future blog post, as part of this series of posts for the beginning writer, and I found a great post by my friend, Karen Woodward, who wrote so well about it that I asked her if I could use her words for my post. She wrote it so amazingly that I could not find a way to talk around it any better than she had written it. Having graciously given her consent, here is a fantastic post that I felt really captured the essence of it all. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Ignoring Your Inner Critic
Whenever I sat down to write all sorts of jabbering voices rose up like mushrooms after a rain, each telling me I was writing crap, that I would always write crap, that my crap was so crappy no one would read it.
Of course we have to care what other folks think about our work. After all, we need to pay the rent and eat occasionally. But it’s easy to forget that the person we are writing for, first and foremost, is ourselves.
This isn’t self-indulgence, it isn’t ego. As writers, as creative beings, we need to stretch our creative muscles, we need to grow and continually develop our unique voice.
How do we do this? We write what our souls call us to write, regardless of what anyone else will think about it, regardless of whether anyone else believes what we’re doing is valuable, or good, or even remotely sane!
Finding Your Own Creative Voice
In Out! All of you! Kris Rusch writes about finding your creative voice. She says that to have a long-term career, you need to learn to roll with the punches AND “you need to believe in yourself with a fierce passion. You need to know that your vision is the correct vision for you, and then you need to defend it.”
Sally Field Fought For Her Creative Voice
Kris Rusch took the title of her piece–Out! All of you!–from a story Sally Field told in this short (4 min) video clip (starts around 2:45) during her interview on Nightline. It’s an excellent video and Sally Field is wonderfully charismatic, it’s well worth watching.
The point is that Sally Field believed enough in herself, in her artistic voice, to ignore the advice of her agents, her business manager and her husband and go her own way. And it paid off. She was right about herself. She succeeded.
What disturbs me every teaching season is the way that writers wait for someone to tell them what box they fit in or what box they should go to. Every year, writers tell at least one of us that we need to give them better instructions. If we give better instructions, the writers insist, then they can write what we want them to write, so that we’ll be happy with them.
These writers entirely miss the point. The point isn’t for us to be happy, but for those writers to find their own voice. Sometimes they’ll fail an assignment and have to do it all over again from scratch. Oh, well. All that means is that they have to invest more time into their craft.
But for a certain type of writer, it means that they have screwed up completely, that they’ll never succeed, that they didn’t receive the help they needed to mold themselves into something someone else wanted.
We can’t help those writers. We try not to teach them, because we teach writers to stand on their own, defend their own vision, and become whothey want to be, not who they’re told to be. It’s a tougher road to walk, because it means that there’s no one to blame when things go wrong.
Write For Yourself As Well As Others
Yesterday I wrote a 1,600 word short story in about 4 hours. For me that’s good. I’ll have to do another pass or two but I’m proud of it.
But I’ll never, ever, publish it.
Why? Because it has to do with my father’s death. It provided we with a way to say goodbye to him and to explore various issues that lingered, like ghosts, after his passing. (I did this as an unofficial response to Chuck Wendig’s flash fiction challenge:Write What You Know.)
I wrote for myself, and I learnt something about myself and my writing. It gave me new energy, it invigorated me.
Rather than ask a question today I want to issue my own challenge:
Writing Challenge: Find Your Own Voice
1. Write something for yourself.
Perhaps, down the road, you’ll publish what you’ve written, but don’t write with that in mind. Write something for you. If it will help, here is something Chuck Wendig wrote for his Write What You Know flash fiction challenge:
I want you to grab an event from your life. Then I want you to write about it through a fictional, genre interpretation — changing the event from your life to suit the story you’re telling. So, maybe you write about your first hunting trip between father-and-son, but you reinterpret that as a king taking his youngest out to hunt dragons. Or, you take events from your Prom (“I caught my boyfriend cheating on me in the science lab”) and spin it so that the event happens at the same time a slasher killer is making literal mincemeat of the Prom King and Queen. (Write What You Know)
2. Keep it short, 1,000 words or less
The second part of this challenge is to make it a short piece of 1,000 words or less. (Don’t worry if you can’t keep it to 1,000 words. I shot for 1,000 words and ended up with 1,600, but that was the shortest story I’ve written for years and was thrilled.)
Thanks so much Karen!!!!!
Karen is an amazing and prolific blogger on all things writing. You definitely need to add her blog to your blog roll. http://blog.karenwoodward.org/
See you soon!!!