Why Your Voice Matters More Than You Think

“When I write, I write what I can’t say.”

That’s the first line of a free-writing prompt at today’s middle school enrichment club, which I launched at my kids’ school during lunchtime. Fifteen kids showed up to spend their lunch hour writing and reading and learning about how to express themselves better.

I gave them this George Orwell quote and asked them to write whatever came to them from it:

“If people cannot write well, they cannot think well, and if they cannot think well, others will do their thinking for them.”

Another girl wrote in the middle of the page NO IDEAS and wrote a stream-of-consciousness around it about how she had no idea what to say, details of her environment and the inner argument of whether to take a friend’s idea and run with it or suffer through the creation of her own.

A kid asked me if I do well as a writer. I said I do very well – because as you know if you read me at all, it’s not about the money. I mean, yes, life is good, I am grateful for the abundance that flows through and around me. But really, when you do what you love every day, you can’t help but nod and say, my life is great, I have everything I need, I do very, very well.

And the truth is, when it’s your passion, your unique path in life, the money does come, and it doesn’t stop until you stop living in the flow, if you ever do.

One boy wrote about this quote looking like a robot or a machine changing the words but keeping the core of the original piece. Brilliant. In the end, he said as much as it is changed, the kernel of truth at the core always remains. (In other words of course.)

This is why I work for myself, even when it’s hard. Because I can take an hour in the middle of the day and sit with amazingly talented middle-school kids and get to the heart of who we are and how we feel.

So many of them wrote about not wanting to be controlled, wanting to think for themselves, not wanting to let others influence them. They wrote about being misunderstood or thinking they’re weird when really, they’ve been sold a sad story. What is weird, really? It’s a judgment by others outside of you who can’t ever know who you really are.

And so many of us really ever figure out who we are.

If these kids have a leg up on those of us already well into adulthood, it’s that they’re open to looking at things a new way. Come to a writing club rather than sitting around, shooting the breeze during the lunch hour, and wondering if you fit in. Dare to be different and spend your time doing something that intrigues you.

How many of us do it?

I finished out the club by explaining to the kids how every great writer spends her early years emulating the voices of established writers on the path toward figuring out her own voice. Only when you try on other voices can you figure out what fits and what doesn’t.

I remember feeling guilty about that in grad school – was I plagiarizing by writing in the style of whatever I’d just read? But thing was, I didn’t do it deliberately. I was open to the idea of voice and so I experimented with it until one day, and it just happened that suddenly, that unexpectedly, I stopped emulating other writers and my voice sprang forth, unique, solid, special, all its own.


All my own.

Among other things, writers are lucky because we figure out our voice and our perspective on the world. Writing is my way of making sense of the world around me.

What do people do who don’t take easily to the written word? Those who don’t favor an artistic medium or a creative outlet, how do they hit on their one true voice?

For now, all I can do is press on in my own way and inspire the little corner of the world that appreciates my light. But I sure do wish on the rest of the world the sheer joy that comes from knowing your heart and your soul, expressing it in the freest way, through a medium that truly speaks to you.

The other day I read a comment from Brene Brown in O! Magazine(January issue) about how she and her family always trudged through sightseeing on vacation, never really pondering what a true “vacation” would be for them. Downtime is only downtime if you truly disconnect and reconnect with your soul and your energy.

So, she said, her family now takes more trips that involve hiking and other activities that truly speak to their souls.

If you know what that is, I say jump in right now. For me, writing is on the list. Whenever in my day I get to do it, it brings me the purest joy.

If you don’t know yours, go in search of it now. There is no time to waste.

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