[The following piece was first posted at http://www.hieropraxis.com/2013/02/discovering-my-voice/.]
Lately I have been pondering the question of writing voice. Does my writing have a consistent tone, cadence, theme? Do people think of my words as having a particular character? Do they come to my blog with an expectation of a certain type of reading experience?
I don’t know the answer, for sure, to any of those questions. But what I do know is this: I am an instigator of poetry. I harass sonnets out of people, nudge them into haiku, violate their personal space for a villanelle. Whatever it takes.
It’s the poem that matters, the poem that would not be if it were not for the fearlessness of your poetic expression. Or mine. Sure, you matter, I matter, but the words… they are what we live for. They outlive us and this moment. They are not us. They are but a mere piece of who we are at the moment we choose to give them voice.
When I let my little poem free from the confines of my mind, it takes on a life of its own. Bye-bye, baby! Go, grow, be bigger than me.
And it will. It still surprises me when someone tells me they’ve used one of my poems or blog posts or essays in a sermon or lecture or in their own piece of writing. I’m left thinking, “Well, you smarty pants” about my piece, that fresh little whippersnapper, going and making her own way in the world. I am proud of the words, but more like a mother for a child, as an observer, not like I ever had anything to do with them.
Because that is what matters. If the words fail to make their way out there in the big world, if they fail to connect, then I need to keep practicing. I need to keep instigating, harassing, nudging myself. Because the words are all that matter. It’s like I keep telling myself (and whoever will listen), if I can just get the words right, then everything else will fall into place.
For me, as an artist, as a writer, words have a high place of honor. They are my tools, my paint, my block of wood waiting to be carved, and my blank sheet waiting to be filled. They are not my idol, but my means of praise; not my all, but my sacrifice.
And this means I have to risk making a mess with them in order to put them in right order. The constant self-nudging and invasion of my own personal space pushes me to polish, practice, perform, and keep putting the words on the table. It’s my own sloppy but no-less-real attempt to imitate creation from chaos. It’s the imprint of the Creator in me.
Although wired as an introvert, I bring people along in my chaotic word wrestling. Why? So many writers just write. They do what they are called to do. Sometimes I think my constant need for creative companionship is a way to procrastinate. Maybe I don’t really love writing.
Maybe. But I think weaknesses can be used for a greater good. Even mine. Call it procrastination if you will, but the instigator in me sees a wider-reaching creativity at work. So it’s taken me forty-six years to see my first book published. But the creative expression I’ve seen from the poor victims of my harassment has been worth the delay.
Sure, I could have been sitting at my desk that whole time, pushing new content of my own out into the world. But I wouldn’t have had nearly as much to say.
Now, enough about me. Would you please go write a poem or something?