Your voice.

Sometimes I ask myself, “What makes you think you have anything of value to say and any of the neccessary skills with which to say it?” 

Maybe we all wonder this, in our own way…. we wonder if what we are doing really matters, if the path we’ve chosen (or at least found ourselves walking) changes the Story.  Because we rarely receive George Bailey moments.   Writers (might) get comments and workers (usually) get paychecks and mothers (expectedly) get hallmark cards and roses on the second weekend in May.  But no matter the reward, we eventually start to question its authenticity.  And we ask ourselves: does what we do really matter?

Comparison- ehhh.  It kills creativity.  It kills the beautiful voice that might have been shared with the world because that voice is convinced its beauty is actually quite mundane and unneccesary in the grand scheme of things.  For me, as a person who longs to write, comparison breeds a fear that looks a little like this: Do you really want to add to the growing sea of babble? This fear of simply adding to the noise sometimes keeps me from placing fingers on keyboard, pen to paper, of linking up the marionette strings between my heart and brain. 

Comparison tells us the other is so wonderfully witty, so wildly sardonic and comical that people cannot help but laugh out loud.  Her metaphors are insightful and her similes sarcastic and she will inevitably make you smile.  And she (obviously) wouldn’t overuse italics because her words are emphatic enough.  But because my voice is not witty, I see what might (could?) be  beauty in myself and instead worry it sounds like the immature giggling of a high school girl who has yet to see the world and know its pain and its heartache.

But my Voice is all I’ve got.  Your voice is all you’ve got, and the only thing that will change the world.  You can waste your time wishing for the wit and the grad school vocabulary and the allusions to Donne and Dickens and Dante, and you would waste precious hours that tick, tick, tick by reminding you of your finiteness.  Don’t waste your finiteness wishing for what the other has– the wardrobe, the skin, the career, the kids–the eloquence.

I heard this tonight: Find your story, and live it, in your own voice.  Talk about truth and beauty, crumbs and crying babies, even though you’ve talked about them a thousand times before.  Because this is your life, your voice, and the story worth telling is the one you are living, and no one can tell it but you.

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3 Responses to Your voice.

  1. papa says:

    I never tire of you revealing your thoughts. Keep being wonderful.


  2. Dave says:

    Hey Liz! I was reading through some of your posts and came across this. It relates to something I’ve been thinking a lot about around the frustration that comes from comparing yourself to others when doing something that you care about doing well.

    I think that you’re right that comparison can kill creativity; “I have to do it this way, because that’s what I’ve seen done.” But I think that comparison is really crucial for growth. People who want to create good things have to start by doing things poorly and find ways to get better. Nobody picks up a guitar and plays like Eddie VanHalen or wins a Pulitzer with the first sentences they can cobble together. We get better by looking at what we do, figuring out what we want to do and finding ways to bridge that gap. Nobody does all of this in a vacuum so it stands to reason that some of your aspirations come from external influences.

    Comparisons become problematic when they are done with judgement but no analysis; “That story is well written, mine sucks. I suck at writing.” But comparison as thoughtful aspiration is essential to growth; “I love how that author built out a rich inner monologue for the main character, it really gave them a lot more depth and made me care more about them as a reader. I sometimes feel like my characters aren’t fleshed out enough, maybe I can try doing that in my next story”

    Ira Glass has a great quote about how people who do creative work get into it because they “have taste” They start out disappointed in their work because it doesn’t match their taste and get better as they aspire to create things that match their taste.

    The hard part is to care about what you do and identify with with you do, but still be able to analyze your work without passing judgement on yourself as a person.

    Perhaps that comes from creative satisfaction stemming from these sorts of assessments:
    “I’m happy that I produced/did something”
    “I’m happy that I grew in how I did what I do”
    “I’m looking forward to doing it again and growing more”

    rather than:
    “I did something and it was good (or bad)” or
    “I won’t do anything until it’s as good as [blank]”

    You say “your voice is all you have” but like anything you might associate with your identity, it grows and I think it’s good to consider what guides that growth.


    • Liz says:

      I totally agree! Comparison with analysis is vital (I mean, otherwise– why teach? why learn from critique?) I guess I wrote that post from the place of paralysis that occurs when any artist is staring at a blank page– during that very first moment of creativity. Comparison with analysis comes later– during the revision/revising stage. Have you seen “the basement tapes” on HBO? Marcus Mumford, Elvis Costello and a few others remaking old Dylan lyrics into songs. I thought it was was a really cool look at the creative process


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