I’ve been throwing around the term “wild voice” for a long time, at least as long as I’ve been doing the Wild Women writing workshops (these date back to 1997). With my new book Wild Women, Wild Voices, due to be released April 7, I thought I’d better explain what I mean when I say “wild voice.”
As its name implies, wild voice is untamed and unbounded and holds the possibility of great beauty. It goes deep, like roots; it sings because it can. It is not domesticated or restrained. Wild voice can be dangerous; it can be outrageous. It is passionate, exuberant, and eager for life. It is turbulent and stormy, often arriving as unexpectedly as a summer squall. It can also appear as tranquil as an autumn breeze or a lazy river—but just try to capture either of these in a bottle and put them on a shelf.
Wild voice is what gives you the sentence or phrase that seems to come out of nowhere. It is what wants to be expressed. It tells you what you intuitively know and what matters most. Language erupts spontaneously with wild voice. When wild voice speaks, pay attention.
How do you know when you’re writing with your wild voice? When your writing surprises you. When you say, “I don’t know where that came from.” When what you read back to yourself resonates deep inside, maybe you even get “truth bumps” along the back of your neck or your arms. You know when you’re writing with wild voice when you know you’re telling the truth. When you’re excited by what you’re writing, when you’re having fun, when you’re not “trying.” When your ego has stepped aside and you’re writing freely and easily, intuitively. When the language you’re using is of your own making and the rhythm of your sentences is the beat of your own drummer. When your writing still feels honest and true when you read it weeks, months, years later.
How do you access wild voice? That’s another topic for another blog. For now, let’s just take 15 minutes and write to a prompt and see what happens.
(This prompt is from “The Bone Road,” by Brandon R. Schrand, Shenandoah, Spring 2008):
On a night ruined with stars
After you’ve written, let me know if you find traces of wild voice in your piece.