Finding Your Voice?

Writers and literary critics often talk about ‘voice’. A writer’s having ‘voice’ is a positive statement, meaning that there is authenticity to what the author is relating–particularly with fiction. Many years ago I was talking with a chap who had recently finished his PhD dissertation and was trying to find an academic post. I suggested that getting some or all of his dissertation published would be a big help in the world of ‘publish or perish.’ He averred it was a good idea, but then stated that he would defer trying to get published as he hadn’t yet found his voice. It was a sad statement…and his academic career actually ended there. In my previous blog I quoted Oscar Wilde’s aphoristic: “Be yourself; everyone else is taken.” So if one cannot find one’s own voice…well…any other would simply be imitation.

Without wanting to sound puffed-up, the voice with which I write–fiction or scholarly articles–is the one I’ve always had. I don’t mean my vocal chords and speaking voice, as in the above diagram, but the voice which plays inside my head. Most of us experience a voice which narrates our lives, thoughts, amusing stories, angry narratives, etc. Writers simply write things down: stories, histories, poetry, sermons and the list goes on. The ‘trick’ for any writers-to-be is simply to trust the voice you have been given. It’s the same voice with which you tell jokes, relate sad events and speak words of endearment to a loved one.

Now I invite you to take the next leap with me: vocation. Vocation is a term which, in English, has usually been reserved for religious professions or trades. But that is a much reduced usage of its original and full meaning. The Latin vocatio literally means a ‘calling’ and applies to anything we feel we are made/created/built to do: art, engineering, farming, parenting, etc. The idea of calling is theological: God calls us into being and endows us with specific gifts, talents, abilities. Vocation is that inner voice which sings with delight when we live, act and do what we feel we were made to do. In Carl Jung’s Psychological Types, he writes that each of us has a type which is essential to who we are. But he did not mean this as some sort of limiting determinism, but rather that we are meant to develop within the type we have been given. There are certain aspects of our lives that we cannot essentially change: height, hair colour, inherited traits and more. (And, yes, I am ignoring all of the many ways we try to change our appearance.) The point of this life is to take what we have been given–our talents, interests, abilities–and use them to make us into the best selves we can be. No one else has your voice or your calling; no one can take it from you; but only you can free it to blossom into the life you want to live.

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