I’m a writer, not a spy…
Great. I’ll have to explain that now and talk about VOICE—but first let me share a quote from Henry David Thoreau:“How vain is it, if you sit down to write when you have never stood up to live.”Any thoughts besides, ‘wow’?
I’ve been thinking a lot about Voice. Writing teachers, agents, and editors often say that Voice is one skill that cannot be taught. You either have it, or you don’t. So where does it come from?
I’m starting to wonder if comes from what Henry said.
A dynamic writer and good friend, Candace Robinson was jumped by gang members in her own garage in Texas. (She actually fought back!) Of course, it was terrifying at the time, but later she said things like, “It’s cool. I can write better fight scenes now. I’ve lived it.”
In my own life, I have travelled far and wide and learned new languages. I’ve met people, rich and poor, from the ends of the earth, slept in almost every kind of house known to man, (and bugs), and in certain countries, I’ve been followed by special agents, woken up in the middle of the night by police asking for ID, watched with binoculars from high buildings, taken in and held for questioning, and I’ve even had dirty laundry checked! (Come on, guys. Was that necessary?) In those circumstances, no matter how much I fantasize about living Mission Impossible, I’d love to shake their coat collars and say: Seriously, I am NOT a spy! Traveling, languages, and culture are like breathing for me. Impossible to stop for large periods of time!
In real life those moments were inconvenient and time consuming, but I can’t deny they were good for both story and voice. Real life fuels imagination like nothing else can. It gives us stories to tell. It gives us Voice. Many great authors would agree. Just take a look at their life and then read their books.
A dear friend Gabrielle Kelly, a dancer and writer who plunges headfirst into her dreams, loves to quote St. Iranaeus who claims, “God’s glory is man fully alive.” What could that mean? Could it be interpreted that living to the fullest, living our dreams, living what we are intended and created to live—produces glory?
So what does that mean for the writer? Do we all have to travel the world, be in a war, know martial arts, or be in love to write a good book with a powerful Voice?
No. But we can learn from our experiences, pay attention to what and who is before us, and take a risk now and then in pursuit of our dreams. For some that will happen in the supermarket. For others it will happen in the sky as they plummet, parachute intact, from 12,000 feet.
What am I getting at? If Voice does come from living to the fullest, then let’s follow Henry’s advice. Let’s live first, then write.
For practical tips on finding your voice click here.