Today’s writing prompt asks if have I found my voice. I’d like to think I have by now. It’s definitely been a process, a journey.
I was a shy kid who didn’t say much. I’m not as shy now, but I still don’t say much in social settings. I’ve kind of always been one who doesn’t speak unless I feel I have something worthwhile to say; I will never be one who talks because I like to hear the sound of my own voice (I don’t).
I spend a lot of time listening. I think listening is a skill and one I’ve tried hard to acquire over the years. Active listening especially is something we have to work at – I know, because I am guilty of sometimes tuning people out when I am distracted, and I feel terrible when I catch myself doing it.
But I digress. Back to my voice. I would have to say that my written voice is my “true” voice. I am much more comfortable putting my thoughts down “on paper” than speaking. While I think I often lose something in translation from the thoughts I am trying to convey to the words that I actually put forth, I still think my written voice is a much truer portrayal of myself than my speaking voice.
When I speak, I too often trip over my thoughts, especially if I am emotional. Sometimes my words get caught in my throat, or I choose the wrong ones and what comes out is not at all what I actually intended, and I may not come across well. It seems the more I care about what I am trying to express, the greater the odds I might mess it up. Or maybe that’s not entirely true and that is just my critical self-perception, but it’s how it seems to me.
My mom used to say, “I got my tongue wrapped around my eye tooth and I couldn’t see what I was saying” and that pretty much describes it.
My written voice, however, (I feel) flows better. I am sometimes frustrated that my sense of humor doesn’t always come across as easily in writing as in person, but I think my heart does and that’s most important to me. At least I hope it does. That old expression about someone wearing their heart on their sleeve – I think that describes my writing voice. What you read is who I am.
People have told me that when they read my words they feel like we’re having a personal one-on-one conversation and that, to me, is a huge compliment. That is exactly how I hope to come across, like a close friend, having a chat, accessible, warm, caring. That is the perception I hope people have when they read my words, like they can talk freely to me, as if we were chatting over a cup of coffee.
This past year I have actually struggled with my voice, having had a very close friendship cause me a great deal of confusion, hurt, and self-doubt, particularly about my ability to communicate well through my written words. Where once they had understood me as easily as breathing, there came a time when they seemed to misunderstand almost everything I said. It was frustrating and painful and because they were such an important person in my life, it made me seriously doubt that I came across well in writing anymore, and if they who had understood me so incredibly well could no longer understand my words, then odds were slim to none that anyone else would – so much so that I largely stopped writing at all, in any social format or even sending personal letters or emails, for many months. I wrote only in my notebooks.
I fell silent. I lost my words. My voice was stilled.
And then …
I had people on social media ask me to start writing again, to please write. They told me my voice was missed, my voice was wanted, my voice was needed.
They told me my voice mattered.
They told me my voice mattered more than I knew, that it gave light and encouragement and helped more than I could possibly know. They told me they liked the way I write. Some even used the word love! A friend in the UK sent me a note a few weeks ago and told me that I am “such a force of good in this world” and have “touched people around the globe.” That floored me. And it meant the world to me.
I was astonished. Humbled. Touched. There may have been some tears.
I didn’t think anyone had even noticed I’d fallen silent. But they did. I didn’t think my words made much difference. But they did. They said they missed my voice and my words of encouragement and that, in turn, encouraged me. Little by little, I began to write again. And here I am.
So yes, I think I have found my voice. I have slowly learned to use it again and I am gaining confidence in it. I try my best to use it to be compassionate and encouraging and reach out to people with a little love and a little laughter.
I hope you find your voice. Don’t let anyone make you doubt yourself and don’t let anyone still your voice.
Please know that you are needed in this world and your voice matters.