Everyone has a story to tell right?
And a lot of people want to tell that story. So when it comes to trying to actually make a living at writing, or at least making it a consistent hobby, the question arises: What makes me worth listening to?
I have thought a lot about it lately. Out of all the people in this world, what about my voice is remotely unique? And perhaps this can be food for thought: what is something only you can say? Here are three things that I have learned about my voice…
1. My voice is not afraid to speak of sunshine. Today we have a very monotone market: if you can make it depressing enough to make someone want to take a hit, make it shocking enough to make people squirm, or hilariously vulgar enough to make people gasp then your voice gets sold. People will nod their heads at the depth of your words–there is a subtleness in your sadness. They will analyze and admire your boldness–you are not afraid to say what everyone is thinking (but that everyone has said before). It is easy to sell melodramatic soul searching tragedy or quick and disgusting humor.
Sunshine isn’t like that. Sunshine doesn’t let you nod at your suffering, wallow in and analyze it like a disease, and it doesn’t let you escape to a different world to take a laugh. Looking at the happier things in life, can be surprisingly unpleasant. It makes you remember what you really want and so it challenges you if you have not worked hard enough. If you have not worked hard enough to appreciate the beauty in your own life or haven’t really listened to the desires of your heart lately, listening to stories or essays that are more full of sunshine can be a slap in the face. I am not saying that no one else writes about happy things. I am just saying that there is a huge market for depressing right now in the literary world and my voice is unique because its not going to follow the trent.
And I don’t just want to give happy endings. But there is beauty in the world that is sometimes really convenient to ignore because then we do not need to challenge ourselves to do any better. When we remember better we need to reach for it, we want to reach for it and that requires a lot of work.
On a totally different note…
2. My voice is that of an intelligent ditz. Does that sentence work? Nope. Do I care? Nope. I like to think of myself as moderately educated. I am certainly not the smartest person I know by any stretch of the imagination but I am not an idiot. I can write but am hopefully somewhat relatable.
I like my style better when it comes to fiction. I actually really enjoy reading my fiction stories and will some day will become brave enough to share them with the world. My non fiction style is still getting stronger to (I hope:)
3. Extreme Empathy. I haven’t had the most exciting life. I certainly haven’t had the most boring life either–I could tell you tales about running along castle walls 50 feet in the air in Italy, driving the wrong way down a one way in Paris, or perfume filled prank wars. But all these little stories are cute anecdotes, I want to talk about more than these. I have heard so many stories that rip my heart apart both because of the suffering and because of the joy.
I want to tell a bigger story. They say to write about what you know. However, I have realized more and more that I know more than just my own life. Honestly, my sensitivity can be a problem if I’m not careful. Someone can tell me a story about their life and I will be left in tears. Sometimes when people tell me about something they succeeded in, I get more excited then them. My point is not that writers have to emotional roller coasters (although they often are, I believe), my point is that since I have all these feels I can use them. If I can use words that capture a little of the intense sufferings, joys, and experiences of others then my voice is worth hearing.
These three reasons may seem generic but they are certainly a start to a unique voice on the page. A voice that is not afraid of the darkness in each human heart or the intense suffering we wish wasn’t real but is also not afraid to look at the beauty beyond the suffering and challenge us to raise our eyes up and remember to laugh with the joy in our hearts.