I am pleased to offer the readers of The Writer's Life a guest post by the multi-talented author of Laced with Magic. I give you...Ms. Barbara Bretton...
First the good news: if you’re looking for information on how to develop your author’s voice, you can stop reading right now. Your own true writer’s voice is already firmly in place and has been ever since you opened your mouth and spoke your first words.
The bad news? You’ve been trained over the years to do everything in your power to suppress it.
Most of us mistrust our true and genuine voice. It seems too easy, too uncomplicated. Too much like sitting across the kitchen table from your best friend and telling a story.
A friend of mine named Deborah Hecht first used the Kitchen Table analogy one day at our local diner. We were eating Greek salads and talking writing and Debbie remarked that every important thing she ever learned she learned at her kitchen table and I think she’s right. In fact, I’ll take that one more step and say that most of life’s truly important decisions are made at the kitchen table too.
The Kitchen Table voice is the natural voice of the storyteller. How many of us have sat spellbound as our mothers or grandmothers or aunts told family stories and shared gossip. Those dramatic pauses, the punchlines, the conspiratorial whispers! They didn’t stop to think about it or agonize over how to present it: they just told the story and we loved every word.
I was sixteen years old when I first learned I had a recognizable writer’s voice. It was the summer of 1966 and I was madly in love with the boy I would marry two years later and not at all interested in spending two precious weeks at Lake Placid with my parents. I tried to convince them that I could be left home alone, but they weren’t buying it so the three of us schlepped north from Queens to Lake Placid where I did my teenage best to ruin their good time.
I wrote to Roy every night while I was away, long letters on pink stationery with little roses along the top border. I can’t remember exactly what I wrote about but we can safely assume the letters were filled with teenage angst and passionate diatribes about my parents and their appalling lack of faith in me.
Cut to our first day home. Our heroine is reunited with her hero and what are his first words to her? “I loved your letters. They sound just like you.”
I’m here to tell you that I had never been more insulted in my life. What did he mean they sounded like me? They weren’t supposed to sound like me, they were supposed to sound like the sexy, sophisticated twenty-one year old fashion model/Pulitzer Prize winning novelist I was in my imagination.
It took me many years—and many false voices—before I finally saw the light.
You are your own greatest writing resource.
Your own life is your best reference book.
Your view of the world and the people in it can provide the fuel to fire up your writing engine every single day for the rest of your life but first you have to figure out how to get out of your own way long enough to be able to access those riches.
Here are a few tips to help you unleash your natural voice:
1. Write emails. Bet you never thought emailing your friends was a creative opportunity but it is. Carve away the LOLs and I’ll bet you’re using your authentic voice without even trying. Ever have email writer’s block? I didn’t think so. We tell each other a thousand stories through our emails and never once struggle for the right word. The right words are always there, in the right order, waiting for us.
2. Keep a journal. A writer’s journal or a personal journal, it doesn’t matter which. What does matter is sitting down every day, preferably around the same time (I’ve never been able to manage that) and tell yourself about your day. What you did. How you did it. How you felt about it. Don’t pretty it up. Tell it conversationally and without that damned internal censor who thrives on telling you that you stink.
3. Julia Cameron recommends Morning Pages in The Artists Way. Three pages handwritten first thing in the morning. A stream-of-consciousness that can serve to kick start the creative process.
4. Natalie Goldberg fills notebook after notebook with what she calls writing practices that actually serve a much greater creative purpose. Goldberg also does much of this writing practice in cafes and restaurants, places where people gather, where life happens. Sometimes we isolate ourselves too well. We’re so intent upon using our writing time wisely that we cut ourselves off from the stimuli and experiences that feed a writer’s imagination.
I’m reminded of Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz who battled witches and testy trees and flying monkeys in her quest to find her way home to Kansas. Finally, after the Tin Woodsman and the Scarecrow and the Cowardly Lion and even the Wizard himself had been granted their heart’s desire, Dorothy turned to Glynda the Good Witch and said, “I guess you can’t help me find my way home,” and Glynda laughed and pointed toward the ruby slippers. “You’ve always had the power to find your way home,” Glynda said. “If that’s true, why didn’t you tell me sooner?” Dorothy demanded. Glynda had the answer ready and waiting. “You wouldn’t have believed me if I had,” she said. “You had to find out for yourself.”
You don’t need Dorothy’s ruby slippers to find your natural voice. It’s the one you use every day. The one that’s been part of you since the day you were born.
Trust your voice.
It's the writer's secret weapon.
Barbara Bretton is the USA Today bestselling, award-winning author of more than 40 books. Her most recent title, Laced With Magic, received a starred review from Publishers Weekly. She currently has over ten million copies in print around the world and have been translated into twelve languages in over twenty countries.
Barbara has been featured in articles in The New York Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, Romantic Times, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Herald News, Home News, Somerset Gazette,among others, and has been interviewed by Independent Network News Television, appeared on the Susan Stamberg Show on NPR, and been featured in an interview with Charles Osgood of WCBS, among others.
Her awards include both Reviewer's Choice and Career Achievement Awards from Romantic Times; Gold and Silver certificates from Affaire de Coeur; the RWA Region 1 Golden Leaf; and several sales awards from Bookrak. Ms. Bretton was included in a recent edition of Contemporary Authors.
You can visit Barbara’s website at www.barbarabretton.com, her blog at http://bmafb.blogspot.com or connect with her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/barbarbretton.com.