Make Your Own Joyful Noise

Everyone has at least one strong, beautiful, perfectly learned voice and if you use that voice with utter abandon and confidence, good writing happens. Why? Because it’s authentic. Writing in this voice is not something you have to learn. Your voice is already there and it’s unique because you are unique.

This voice is the place you come from, the language you learned at the kitchen table, in the back yard and surrounded by family. Your authentic voice is attitude, geography and history. Grace Paley said, “If you say what’s on your mind in the language that comes to you from your parents and your street and friends, you’ll probably say something beautiful.”

Sometimes it may seem the more we learn about the craft of writing, the more difficult the act becomes. In trying to get it “right,” we lose the lovely, imaginative voice that comes naturally and write in a voice that is not our own. Writing becomes work. This is where so many writers become discouraged and quit.

Please don’t do that.

Come back to your own native voice. No one knows that language as perfectly as you know it. Allow it to take over and talk through you and onto your page. “Write freely, recklessly, in first drafts,” Brenda Ueland told us.

Our aim as writers is to refine and strengthen our voice, to explore the terrain of our natural language, to discover its peaks and valleys, its sounds and the silence between sounds. Our job is to write and rewrite until what we have written resonates with what is authentic and true.

Remember as you go to your writing, no one else can tell the stories you have to tell and no one else can write them in the voice that is uniquely and authentically your own.

This piece was written for UCSD Extension’s “Enrich Yourself” brochure. I’ll be teaching three workshops at Extension this fall. Find out more here.

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