The Writer’s Voice – Another Unconventional Definition

stepping stonesYour writer’s voice is all your own. It is not only how you tell your story, it’s which story you choose to tell, and why you must tell it. Your writer’s voice is less about syntax and more about soul, less about punctuation and more about passion, less about eloquence and more about essence.

But, there is even more to it than that.

Though everyone has a story to tell, not every person shares that story with the world. Though we all have ideas and opinions, we do not all put them down on paper or in pixels. In choosing to express her inner thoughts to the world, a writer takes on a serious responsibility.

Writers are keen observers. We are naturally aware of details and nuances, collecting them from our own experience and using them to enrich our writing. We are also born storytellers who seek out the story in even the smallest incident. We see a humble dandelion struggling to bloom through a crack in the sidewalk and our minds leap to stories of other characters who must rise above their circumstances. We witness a surly patron short changing a waitress and wonder to ourselves about what made the patron’s temper flare. We see a child cross the finish line at a local road race and we can’t help but put that moment in context, wondering about all the preparation that went into that small victory and what the accomplishment will mean to the child’s future self.

We see, we wonder, we feel. We observe, explore, and then try to make sense of what we’ve experienced through the medium of words. Like forensic scientists, we patiently unearth and sort out all the bits and pieces so we can string them together until they tell the whole story. And then we share that story because a writer’s ultimate goal is always the same: connection.

The responsibility of a writer lies in that connection.

When you write, you are giving voice to your own thoughts, but you are also helping to shape the thoughts of others. Whether you are a journalist, an essayist, a novelist, a blogger, or a poet, each time you release your writing into the world it has the potential to alter someone else’s perspective. Those shifts, no matter how small or subtle, can change lives.

The writer’s voice is what connects us – to ourselves, to each other, to the world around us … to ideas and dreams and endless possibilities. The writer’s voice is a light that shines into the dark places, making them less scary. It is compassion in times of crisis and encouragement in times of despair. The writer’s voice is both rebel and conscience, the hurricane and the eye.

As writers, we have shouldered the responsibility of helping other people make connections in their lives. Our words provide perspective, insight, and diversity of ideas. Our stories make it possible for a reader to step into the shoes of another, if only for a little while. What we write has the power to change how someone else perceives the world, or his neighbor, or himself.

Remember this, dear writer, when you next pick up the pen or set your fingers to the keyboard. Remember that you are creating connections. You are stitching the world together, one word at a time, one reader at a time. What kind of world are you creating?
 
 

Author’s Note: I wrote this piece in response to the horrific events at the Boston Marathon this past Monday. Watching the news coverage of the aftermath did nothing to help me process what had happened. I felt adrift in a roiling sea of sound bytes and sensational headlines, sanitized press conferences and endlessly looping stats. It wasn’t until I began reading the essays of fellow writers that I was able to feel again. It was their human words and emotions, the context they provided, the stories they told that helped me regain my footing. It was their ability to make small connections that helped me start to piece together my own perspective and questions and thoughts. There are no easy answers in a tragedy like the one that befell Boston on this Patriots’ Day, but it was the writers who threw me a lifeline.
 
 
Jamie Lee Wallace is a writer who also happens to be a marketer. She helps her Suddenly Marketing clients discover their voice, connect with their audience, and find their marketing groove. She is also a mom, a prolific blogger, and a student of voice and trapeze (not at the same time). Introduce yourself on facebook or twitter. She doesn’t bite … usually.

Image  Credit: Jon Pinder

42 thoughts on “The Writer’s Voice – Another Unconventional Definition

  1. “…put that moment in context…make sense of what we’ve experienced…” – these are words that are particularly important to me right now. In between my chaotic schedule lately, my cousin and I have been doing geneaological research to document my Native American grandmother’s background and we have unearthed history that is rich ground for storytelling. What I have found out confirms what I was told through oral history as a young girl (before she died). I feel an extreme pull to put this information into storytelling context. I think to tell the story of my ancestors is to give them life again, put souls to rest, and add connections “to ourselves, to each other and the world around us…to ideas and dreams and endless possibilities.”

    A very meaningful post, Jamie!

    • I love the work you and your cousin are doing, I love that you are looking back with such care and an eye for the stories that will connect the past with the present and even the future. Your ancestors are lucky to have their stories in your hands.

    • Thank you and you’re welcome. 🙂
      … and I love your avatar – such a cute picture!! Is it you, or just a sweet found image?

    • Thank you for saying so. We should all take pride in our work and our role. Both are important – not just for us, but for each person we touch with our words.

  2. “…each time you release your writing into the world it has the potential to alter someone else’s perspective. Those shifts, no matter how small or subtle, can change lives.” So true. Beautiful post.

  3. Interesting piece. (love the pix: 2 bridges/ways across the waters)
    The stones may be old fashion – primitive – but may outlast the engineered bridge. Writing may be like that – fragile and sometimes awkward, but enduring steps to point back from where we came.

    • Oooh! I like that – the idea of writing being primitive and fragile, but still the thread that holds everything together. Very nice. Very nice. (Love the piece on the sharks and the ants, btw – fascinating!)

  4. Pingback: The Writer’s Voice – Another Unconventional Definition | damegussie

  5. Hi Jamie
    Lovely piece, beautifully written. I agree with most of what you’re saying, but I’m not with you on responsibility. I believe we have a responsibility to express our unique viewpoint, whatever that is, because that’s what creates diversity, discussion and, as you say, connection. However ‘shouldering responsibility’ implies a burden, an onerous load and some hidden ‘way’ that we ought to be expressing ourselves and our opinions, feelings, thoughts etc. We are not responsible for how people view the world – they are. I wholeheartedly agree that the written word is creating something more in the world than what’s printed on the page, but it is interpreted so differently by every person that reads it, and all according to their perspective, beliefs and assumptions. So all we can do as writers is put our work out there and continue to write from our truth and convictions.

    • Hi, Pollyanna.
      Thanks for such a thoughtful comment.
      Though I can understand why that particular choice of words might make the responsibility feel onerous, I think of it more like the responsibility I have as a mother to my daughter. Though she is her own person and will make her own choices and form her own opinions, I take great care to be sure that I am sharing with her in the most open, honest, and generous way I can. I don’t claim to have the answers, but I ask questions right along side her. I don’t judge either of us right or wrong, but I tell my story and listen to hers and we discuss the differences and similarities.

      This is not to say that the writer is a parent and the reader is a child, unless, perhaps, we think of it in the context of the relationship between a grown child and parent. My mom and I, for instance, talk almost every morning and we share all kinds of things. Where once she did take on the role of teacher, now we toss that role back and forth between us like a ball. Neither of us leads the other, but we do walk side by side. We may not always agree, but our understanding is always expanded and deepened by the stories we share.

      It’s a loose metaphor that isn’t even a proper metaphor, but I hope that gives a better sense of how I see (and feel) the responsibility. Everyone has a voice, but not everyone chooses to use it. Writers do. Because we are the ones speaking, there is, I think, some level of responsibility.

      Thanks again for the great comment and for inspiring me to think about this more.

  6. Great piece! In 2010 when I lost my mother in law and only weeks later found myself doing hospice for my father in law, it was writing that sustained me. A friend of mine from our manuscript club told me, “Write it down”. Whatever I felt, good, bad, or absolutely ugly, my job was to write my way through it. I wrote in my author’s voice, and haven’t looked back since! Thank you, Jamie!

    • So sorry for your losses – and one so quickly on the heels of the other. I am glad you had writing to sustain you. It is amazing what powerful healing can come from words.

    • Thanks, Rebecca. I’m grateful for all the wonderful writers out there who share their feelings so bravely and honestly.

  7. “Though everyone has a story to tell, not every person shares that story with the world. Though we all have ideas and opinions, we do not all put them down on paper or in pixels. In choosing to express her inner thoughts to the world, a writer takes on a serious responsibility.”

    I just started a blog. When I read this I felt affirmed that I am doing the right thing. I am writing incognito. I wish I can express myself openly but this will do for now. Thank you, Jamie !

    • Congratulations on starting your blogging journey. I hope it takes you where you want to go, but no matter the destination be sure to enjoy the journey! 🙂

  8. Totally dig your thought process! And you’re so spot ON..Especially @Remember this, dear writer, when you next pick up the pen or set your fingers to the keyboard. Remember that you are creating connections. You are stitching the world together, one word at a time, one reader at a time. What kind of world are you creating?…

    2 thumbs UP!

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  10. I, too, found this piece inspiring. I am currently working out thoughts on my next novel. The idea of finding connections, and having a responsibility as an author fits very well with that, for me. It is indeed a responsibility, to use my ability as a writer to make those connections. It’s a responsibility I know I couldn’t handle if I didn’t also know that I have the inner voice to guide me once I get to writing the novel.

    Thanks for putting words to this unconventional definition. I appreciate it.

    I like to dream that the words I write will have “the power to change how someone else perceives the world, or his neighbor, or himself.”

    • I’m glad you found some inspiration here, Trish. Thanks for taking the time to say so & good luck with your next novel!

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  12. Pingback: Writer’s Weekend Edition – On Finding My (Civic) Voice | Live to Write – Write to Live

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