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!
Sharon Lippincott, aka Ritergal