Knowing Your Voice
But what does that even mean?
Knowing your voice is knowing truly who you are, how you express yourself that sets you apart from others, and finding the part of you that consistently delivers what you want to give to others without becoming generic or routine.
Knowing your voice takes time. You must grow into yourself, dig your roots down (not out to others), and find out who you are. For some this happens at 20, others need to hit their 70s for it to click, but whether you know your voice or not, know that it is already within you.
Rita Dove has a poem titled Ars Poetica, which speaks of a man who "entered each day with an ax." That's my way of knowing your voice. To enter each day with the same powerful tool, whether it be an ax, an ear, a shoulder, a pen, ambition, vibrancy, etc. But knowing your "voice" isn't something exclusive to writers. Everyone should, at some point in their lives, come to know their voice and hear how it sounds unlike any other.
To be clear, your voice is not rightness. It's not your opinion. It's not your morals or beliefs. Those are your thoughts and feelings.
Your voice is the part of you which exists outside of you--the way a seed can lay claim to the flower it formed. Your voice is what people touch when they are not near you. If you're reading this now, but have never met me, then you are more than acquainted with my voice, but not me.
A voice is a powerful substance to enter each day with.
For an artist, your voice is the painting. People come to know you from your work without knowing you as a person. I know barely anything about artists but I know Degas loved ballerinas, Remington's world revolved around cowboys and horses, and Bob Ross could be counted on to add a "happy little tree" here and there.
When I think of the clearest voice, in tone, message, and style, I think of Martin Luther King Jr. Just his name brings to mind the dignified fight for civil rights for all. His voice carries beyond his death. His voice rings true even today.
In life, in this world, we all need to understand the value of our own voice. We need to know our voice so we can use it to make changes in the world we see, and improve the lives of those around us and on the other side of the globe.
These people I listed and many others, had a voice and when they spoke, wrote, sang, painted, their voice came through because it was clear and consistent.
Knowing your voice means you are you 100% of the time, not because it's an act or a way you want to be portrayed, but because it is you.
My hope is that you live in a world, bubble, society, community which not only tolerates your voice, but also encourages and uplifts it.
However, knowing your voice does not come easily and may not be supported. Sometimes you have to stick your neck out and toss your voice down a cliff to see where the soft spots are around you.
Your voice is what's on the outside of the shell people like to box you into.
Your voice finds you through experience and practice. Your voice becomes confident along with your abilities and experience with a task. To be blunt, you can't talk out of your ass, bloating your abilities, and still know your voice. It's just not possible.
Ah, but once you know your voice, you can use it to make statements, be heard, shift understanding, and open others' minds. Even when you think you aren't making a statement at all, your voice will carry your message where it needs to go.