Your 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