Finding My Voice

Exactly half my life ago I was thrilled to be included on a Citizen’s Advisory Committee to study overcrowding options for our local school district. When the study was complete, a core group went forth to disseminate our findings. In each case we were accompanied by a district administrator who was available to answer questions beyond the scope of the committee.

During my first two reports, I was terrified. My knees knocked and my voice quavered. Surely even listening to me was painful. The third time was the charm. I went to the Rotary Club, and the Superintendent himself accompanied me. He belonged to Rotary, but never had the opportunity to address the group, and he was an on-stage kinda guy. In his introduction, he began telling them what I’d be saying. I was alarmed. He kept talking. I was angry, then furious. I had no idea what I could say. Suddenly, as he neared the end of my material, a wave of calm descended. I knew exactly what to do.

I stood and began speaking. “Dr. Noman has covered all the points in the committee’s findings, so rather than repeat them for you, I’m going to tell you how I as a mother feel about these findings and how each would affect our family.” This information was off-limits by our committee contract, but the contract called for the administration to be back-up. The contract had already been broken.

I spoke for seven minutes. I spoke from the heart. I spoke with passion. My voice was strong and vibrant. The audience was rapt. When I concluded, the applause was instant and resounding. I glowed. Dr. Noman was ashen. On a side note, he treated me with far greater respect from that day forth.

That was the day I found my voice. It was several more years before I joined Toastmasters and learned to use that voice in a predictable, consistent way, but that was the day I learned that speaking my own truth, from the center of my heart, was the source of eloquence, and power.

I’ve learned similar lessons about writing. I always got high marks on research papers in school, but they were exercises in the gamesmanship of weasel wording, extensive documentation, and avoiding of personal opinion, hardly works of eloquence! I used to dabble in fiction. Those early stories were pale, transparent, and shaky as my knees had been in those first reports. I wrote piles of how-to articles with creatively constructed case studies. They served a purpose, but they hardly lit fires.

Only when I began writing my own truth, in my own voice, from the center of my heart, have my words begun to matter, to myself and to others. If I write a story about my childhood and then let my sister correct it, my father correct it, and my cousin add her two cents worth, it isn’t my story, and it doesn’t ring true. I must write my story, and encourage them to write their own as they knew things to be.

When you write your own stories about memories that matter, your words will ring true, and your passion will shine brightly, regardless of the words you use, your grammar, spelling or anything else. Write from your heart, write about what matters to you, in your own words and your own way, and warm the hearts of your readers!

Write on,

Sharon Lippincott, aka Ritergal


Walks Across said...

Thanks, Sharon, what great advice. I have a parallel story. To simplify, it started with a slap across the face when, as a child, I said something an adult didn't like. My childhood interpretation of that slap was "oh, I shouldn't ever say what I really feel." Not a great idea, but I lived by it for many years. Then, at 27, i discovered I had thyroid cancer and was told that for the surgery the dr. might have to cut my vocal chords. Now that's a wake up call!

The surgery left my voice intact and caused me to take a good long look at how I was operating emotionally in the world. I've learned to use my voice when it's appropriate, to value the spoken and written word because they bind us together or rend us apart.

I loved what you had to say and your encouragement to write from the heart, where truth lies, even if it is simply our own truth. My biggest difficulty in writing occurs (out of my own neediness, I realize) when I show it to my partner and she lands a hammer on it. At least it feels like that .

I just proposed a joint work to my son-a bouncing back and forth of our perceptions of our lives, seperate and together. I think it can be a stunning work if we don't squelch and edit the rawness out of it. He's 35 and I'm 58, there's a lot of water under that bridge. Perhaps we can Walk Across and produce something meaningful for others, as well. I'll keep you posted on the progress of that.

Ritergal said...

I'm so happy for you that your voice was spared — life without speech is a daunting thought.

Can you write a story about your feelings when your partner pounces on your words? Sometimes stories are understood where direct confrontation sparks defensiveness and denial.

I was struck with your comment about not squelching and editing the rawness out of joint writing with your son. Now that's a challenge — writing "raw." That takes courage too. I hope you will keep us posted.

Be brave and write on.