I've always known that language helps us be seen, heard and understood in this world. Without it, we have no voice. Words connect us to each other. Without language we are cut off. We are alone. Language shapes our thoughts and emotions, it helps us feel, remember, and make meaning of life.
In my early 20s I became a women’s rights activist and helped abused women find their "voice" in a legal system that victimizes people who have been silenced in their relationships for too long.
Discovering your "voice" is a moment of transformation — not only for your writing but for your personal growth. Your writing voice might be hiding — behind grief, cliché, convention and clutter, which all must be cleared before we can reach it. Also, writing isn't mechanical. It works in subtle ways to help you get unstuck — to change. The magic of writing is that as soon as you own something on paper, you’re often able to let it go emotionally. Finding your "voice" is about stepping into a new kind of power.
Here are some tips for getting there:
1. Look inside.
Your writing voice is your writing fingerprint or footprint. It's unique to who you are. To find your writing voice, you have to know who you are. So … who are you? Spend some time writing about what makes you who you are, what moments in your life have shaped you. As Plato said, "Know thyself."
2. Find your "Why."
Why are you writing? Ask yourself this question 100 times. Come up with 100 different answers. The Japanese painter Hokusai painted Mount Fuji from 100 different views believing that we can only know and understand something if we see it from 100 different angles. Why you are writing is more important than what you're writing about. The "what" flows from the why, not the other way around.
3. Don’t write in clichés.
The antidote to cliché is to look for the ambivalence or paradox in the experience. Ask yourself, "What am I not seeing? What is not obvious? What is hidden or buried here?"
4. Get inside your skin.
Go deep down into your belly. Too much writing is disembodied — abstract and vague. Writing starts in the body. Write about physical experiences and sensations. Use all your senses. Though we all see, hear, touch, smell and taste, each of us does it differently, in a way that is unique to us. Some of us see colors; others of us see shapes; some of us notice the spaces around things more than the things themselves. Some of us hear too much, some of us hear undertones, some can only hear the silences …. Explore the ways in which you experience your senses.
5. Write often and a lot.
Your writing voice comes from an intimacy with your own writing. When you’re not writing, read — all the time and different things. Sometimes by reading the way others write, we feel an echo in ourselves, or the flash of a lighthouse bringing us closer to our own voice.
Your voice is there. It isn't lost. It can never die. It may be a whisper or a roar. Be patient. Keep working. Allow it to emerge.