When I first started writing children’s stories, what appeared on the page was verse. I didn’t want to write verse. I wanted to write stories. For months, I rewrote my verse into prose. The prose was ho-hum, the verse was great. It took me awhile to get it. I have a poet’s voice. My writing is lyrical, like it or not. Rhymes pop out! Rhythm happens.
Voice is what happens when we allow whatever wants to be said to flow out, unfettered by over-thinking. Even more significantly, voice comes when we allow our deep original expression to come forth without censorship. When I first started writing, my voice peeped out and the critic chuckled, “How corny … How lame.”
Now I know that a harsh critic lives within me. This inner critic dismisses my voice by ridiculing it. When the critic rises, my voice scurries into hiding. The critic and the voice are linked.
How does one allow deep, original expression (ie voice) to come forth without censorship? Sometimes it’s tough. I’ve devised a practice which works for me. When I hear the critic, I stop writing and speak out loud. I acknowledge the critic and have a conversation that ends with: “I hear you … but I’m not hiding today.” It’s kind of like standing up to a bully. Then I let go and write my heart out.
In a sense, allowing voice is a courageous act.
Another way to elicit voice is to engage in spontaneous writings. For example: What’s the first thought that comes to mind when you hear the phrase, “What are you waiting for?” or “Open the box!” or “Write about a gate?” Start writing on that first thought quickly. Free write in whatever style comes forth and don’t let your mind edit. In my early writing days, this worked well for me, both as a warmup and as a way to let the voice of the idea come forth. An excellent source for spontaneous writing ideas is A Writer’s Book of Days: A Spirited Companion & Lively Muse for the Writing Life by Judy Reeves (2010).
Nowadays, I find myself jumping into voice right away. Could I have finally tamed the bully critic? Wow.