Find a voice.
If you research the art writing you soon discover that blogging websites, writing coaches and anyone who is anyone agree that to be a writer you need to find your voice.
The oft used phrase “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken,” sums it up quite nicely.
But, voices come in many forms.
David Sedaris once accused me of having an unusual voice. But, he wasn’t reading my blog. We were chatting as he signed a copy of his latest book and he questioned the way I talk. Imagine it. David Sedaris, the man with one of the most distinctive voices in the media saying that someone else has an unusual voice. But, he is not the first person to mention it. It is something I have always contended with.
Many years ago, when I could afford both the time and the beer, I was often to be found in the pub. Whenever I ordered a round of drinks, the landlord would turn to someone else at the bar to ask what I had said. He always said I spoke like a machine gun.
These days, it is usually telephone callers who struggle with my voice, and many of them think I sound like a woman. Fortunately, their mistake can be to my benefit. When ‘Steve’, the chap who is clearly calling from a Mumbai call centre and is no more Steve than I am, says “Is that Mrs Heddington?” I can genuinely say that no-one of that name lives here. This can save me having to answer his barrage of questions for market research.
But, I can’t blame these people for thinking I sound like a woman or a machine gun. I do.
I hate the sound of my voice, and I cringe if forced to listen to myself in recordings or on video. I am squeaky, nasal and way too fast, and even when I make a conscious effort to slow down it doesn’t work. Some years ago, I was in a stage production and went out of my way to speak as slowly and clearly as possible. Gielgud never won awards for gabbling and racing, so I made sure I pronounced each word as if I were old Sir John himself. At least, inside my head I did. At times, it felt so slow and unnatural that it was as if each word were a new sentence. The video evidence however, told a different story and I still sounded like Lee Evans on speed.
Sometimes, a voice is clearly what you are given and all the effort in the world won’t change it from its natural form. Other voices can appear from nowhere.
When my stepson, Tom, recently experienced an upset, he locked himself away. That in itself is not unusual, because many of us like solitude when reflecting on a disappointment. At times of upset I also prefer peace and isolation instead of fuss and attention, but when I escape, I usually opt for the bedroom or my office. Tom chose his cider shed. With the gallons of homemade scrumpy that he has in his shed, he could easily have got completely tanked up and gone out with the intention of fighting everyone in the town. Instead of that, something unexpected happened. He wrote. Being a former doorman, built like a brick shithouse and capable of carrying more in one go than I could shift in a day, he is not someone of whom you would look at and think poetry. But, on this occasion, fuelled by anger and a quantity of cider that would make me sleep until Christmas, he found a voice.
It might not be Thomas Hardy, and he may never write another word, but in these few lines he captures a way of life in such a way that you can taste the apples and hear the accent in every line.
THE CIDER SHED
A certain type of man do occur in this place,
His own way of life at his own certain pace.
Away from his wife and the stresses of life,
He can forget all of the strife!
Eat drink and be merry they say,
A glass of cider is all I need to be on my way!
Everything these days is rush and tare,
They like to sit at their computer chair.
Lost they are in cyber space,
Where I’m happy in cider space!
© Thomas Meaker 2015
THE WEST COUNTRY
West Country I am born and bred,
Big towns and cities I do dread.
‘Eye and ‘Ee there is no more,
Apples and pears there’s more and more.
Proper cider we like to drink,
Now it comes flavoured and sometimes pink!
Drinking is bad, or so we are told,
My elderly grandfather is grey and old.
Gallons and gallons he has drunk,
A battleship he could have sunk.
Still fit and healthy to this day,
Because he lives life the West Country way!
© Thomas Meaker 2015
We are pretty much stuck with our spoken voices. Written voices are different, and something that we consciously struggle with in an attempt to make ourselves better writers. But sometimes, a voice just arrives from nowhere.
If you want to be a writer, you need to find a voice. But, you don’t need to be a writer to find a voice.
Have you ever found words arriving from nowhere?
What would your voice tell us about your life?