People often say that this or that person has not yet found himself. But the self is not something one finds, it is something one creates. ~Thomas Szasz, "Personal Conduct," The Second Sin, 1973
When novelists began that dangerous and lonely trek up the Mountain Of Publishing Dreams, there’s one cry that echoes above the rest.
Find Your Voice.
Editors say it. Agents too. “I just fell in love with the author’s voice.”
Not to minimize the necessity of an original plot and decent writing, yet it’s the distinctive tone that sets the story above the rest. And some authors are so unique that you can literally hear the words as you read them.
Awhile back, I read a Spenser novel by Robert B. Parker. Now, for those who don’t know it, a few years ago, the Television Powers That Be produced a few Spenser movies starring Joe Mantegna. Perfect. The casting was so ideal that now, when I read one of Parker’s novels, I *hear* Joe speaking the lines.
The writing style is so unique to Parker that there can be no mistaking it. Casting such a role would be a joy, no doubt, simply because the Character is so finely drawn. Not by description. But by… voice.
When I was nineteen, and an eager and enthused musician-wannabe, a kind and talented performer took me under wing. He was quite the character. Wearing a bowler derby and puffy white shirt, the songs he performed were almost exclusively written before 1940. That was his “thing.” I still love (and play) the song he taught me—Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out. This was my first introduction to the plaintive blues of Bessie Smith.
One thing I’ve never forgotten is the advice he gave me as a budding singer. He told me that it mattered not how WELL I sang. Only how distinctive my voice was. Now, obviously, he wasn’t encouraging me to sing out of tune! It’s a given that no matter what your profession, you strive to be the best you can be. Yet that’s not the key to success in the entertainment biz, he reminded me.
“When you listen to the radio, and Mick Jagger comes on, you recognize his voice instantly. It doesn’t matter what the song is, you know it’s him.”
And when an author finds her voice, you know it. Janet Evanovich is a bestselling author. USA Today, Publisher’s Weekly AND NY Times. People love her books and buy them in droves. Why? There’s no mistaking her voice. It rings throughout every page. The plots, the characters, they all spring out in vivid Technicolor in Her Voice.
What strikes me too as I mull this over, is how pertinent this value is in all of life. Not just in singing. Not just in writing. It’s a universal thing. We all strive to find our voice. Friends read your letters or laugh over your jokes or listen to your stories because that’s So You. Voice is how we express ourselves and it’s not limited to the words we choose or the tone we use. Our every gesture, our favorite expressions, the way we laugh or roll our eyes, the tilt of our head or the teasing grin, it’s all part of our unique expression.
And now I realize just how vital this quest is and how it’s not limited to writers at all. This may be our most important focus, this personal quest to discover our unique flavor.
So just for today, no matter how long your To Do list is, no matter how many neglected To Do items nag at your weary soul, take a moment and acknowledge this incredible phenomenon. You’ve invested years without ever realizing it. Your loved ones cherish those special things only YOU can do. Your unique sense of humor, your exceptional contribution to life, your beautiful, wonderful, truly amazing WAY.
No matter what you THINK you SHOULD do (and trust me, I know that’s a never-ending list). The One Thing that every soul must do is accomplished on a daily basis with rarely a speck of self-acknowledgement. So, let me say it for you… For us all…
Congratulations! You Found Your Voice.
For us writers, let’s keep the faith and remember that no matter how many books it takes, that voice will take hold. It’s inevitable. We ARE the voice, and the Voice Rules.
And speaking of voice, if you have a moment, check out this review of Misty Evan's amazing book, Operation Sheba: http://www.ecataromance.com/index.php?p=588