Voice: Who Speaks For You?


Photo from istock.

You can’t find your voice if you only let others speak for you.

I love the photo from istock. The person in the middle standing out in red with their arms in the air seems so freeing. A visual “ME! I’m here!” in a sea of beige. It speaks to me and so does the quote about letting others speak for me. I think I’ve spent most of my life handing off personal power and pieces of my identity for peace.

I’m only on week two of my voice studies and my brain is already overflowing with Ah Ha moments and inspiration. The assignments have been relatively simple really and yet scary at the same time. I have an Associates Degree while everyone else appears to have a Masters in Lit or higher – heck yes I’m comparing. It scares me.

It’s no coincidence that I would find a writers voice class in the same season that I am questioning my own beliefs about life in general and wondering whose voice really transfers over. Is it my voice people hear or is my version of someone’s expectations? Since I don’t know the answer, I believe that is a question worth exploring.

My journaling goes beyond the lessons these days as I look at why I choose certain phrases and where opinions come from. Am I being rebellious? Am I being afraid? Am I being a parrot? or Am I being me?

Writing has become enjoyable again.  They don’t know me. There are no expectations of specific character and behavior. I have the freedom and permission to try on voices like a teenager tries on clothes. There’s no box to fit into.

This class is as freeing as the day I learned how to do stand up — granted I hope and pray writing produces better results.  Or maybe the fruit that seed planted *is* growing. Maybe stand-up is just another part of the path of finding myself again. Once I learned how to tell jokes on stage – kill or die trying – other things (like going back to being a Democrat) don’t seem nearly as formidable. I’m eyeball deep in Republicans, trust me when I say that changing back is a bit formidable. Other questions do arise however:

  • Just because I’m a Christian does that mean I *have* to talk about God all the time?
  • Can I have opinions that are left of center rather than right?
  • Can I talk about something else like how hard being middle-aged is sometimes?
  • Can I talk about love or nature or even sex.
  • Can I talk about the really sexy artist/poet that makes me melt?
  • I’m a Mom but do I have to talk about my kids?

Can I swear?

Anne Lamott does.

I remember the first time I read Traveling Mercies and I saw the F-word. It knocked my sensibilities right out of my socks and caused me to double-check the jacket. Yep, she’s a Christian.  My eyes lit up, I giggled and looked around wondering if anyone had heard what I just read. Then something magical happened, my soul settled deep into my reading chair and by the end of the book – I wanted dreadlocks too.

Wanting them and actually getting them are not the same thing. Trying them on for size? Totally worth it.  I just didn’t know how I was going to do that. I finally had my chance while on a cruise with some new artist friends and had my hair braided on the beach in Costa Maya last Spring. They lasted all of 12 hours. Dreadlocks  aren’t me after all — the wires kept poking me. I finally sat straight up in bed at 2 in the morning and spent two hours taking them out.

I don’t have to copy someone’s look or voice or opinion to fit in. And if I do then they aren’t my tribe.

I don’t have to be Anne Lamott or ee cummings or CS Lewis to be a writer. I don’t have to live off of someone else’s faith to be a Christian either.  I just have to be wholly me whatever that entails.

This post written by Deana O’Hara for Redemption’s Heart. October 26, 2011. All rights reserved.

3 thoughts on “Voice: Who Speaks For You?

  1. All you have to be is our beloved Deana, who remembers that she is a child of God in all that she does and says. Being that child brings responsibilities to allow His Spirit to speak through her and to let the world know that she is His, and not the “world’s”. There are time when the shock factor is necessary to get the true point across, but those moments should not define you as a stumbling block for other believers. I hope and pray that you “get” what I am saying….

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    1. I get what you’re saying, I’m always going to be a stumbling for someone. The fact that I wasn’t raised in the church alone is a stumbling block for many. The body as a whole puts up their own blocks with denominations, political parties, gender, etc. I can’t afford to worry about that anymore.

      Beth Moore puts it well, “Baptize me Oh Lord to the criticism of man, that I might one day become immune to it.” — She’s a wonderful teacher, writer, and woman and as many people who love her, hate her. The woman gets hate mail daily! So does Chonda and other writer friends. It’s sad to me.

      I think that’s part of where I’m looking at voice. In worrying less about whom I offend and focusing more on what needs to be said. I’m being true to who I am created to be, I honor God over man.

      It’s a balancing act to be sure.

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