Because I didn’t know who I was. Yeah, seriously. There in lies the gooey centre of this voice mystery.
Who am I?
Who are you?!
Actually, who the fuck are any of us?
Maybe we’re just a seething mass of angry carbon molecules having a dance off in the Earth championships. The winner gets a body, the loser gets to be the arse hole of a sniff happy Shih Tzu.
Because if we were, we wouldn’t all be haunted by the ‘who am I’ question. It doesn’t matter whether you’re three years old and figuring out that you have a penis while Mary Sue over there most certainly does not, or if your twenty-three and realising (when that first gas bill arrives) that being an adult sucks. You’re still afflicted by the ‘woah shit’ moment of ‘who the fuck am I?’.
I hate to break it to you, but I can’t tell you. Shit, I’m only just figuring it out myself!
We try to define ourselves constantly. Tick box, this, conform to that. Jock. Math Geek. Science Nerd. Goth. You can’t be a fantasy writer if you’re a mommy blogger. You can’t be a writing craft author if you also pen memoirs. It’s all bollocks.
I don’t know about you, but I’m far too curvy to be a 467 page novel, I don’t fit any bloody genre, thanks. But maybe because I don’t. It’s means I do. Stay with me.
What if we have had our heads shoved so far up our tick box genre asses, we’ve done it all wrong. What if, in defining genres by ‘type’ of book, we have missed the point of writing completely.When you meet a new person for the first time, you do the standard arse sniff assessing each other and how likely you are to get on by your interests – maybe your both fantasy books, or non-fiction history books. But that doesn’t define your friendship. That doesn’t mean you’re a sure thing for the bookies. I ain’t going to bet on your friendship because you both happen to like the latest whimsical fad.
What about that friend of yours who is twenty years your senior (or junior) and a total freaking oddball. You know the one. With crazy hair and a ragged look in their eye. They’re more likely to be a non-fiction book on the ancient art of burp capture. But you love them anyway. Because of what’s on the inside. Because of who they are.
Who we are isn’t a shopping list of craze oriented likes and dislikes. Who we are, who we REALLY are, is our principles. The values we live our life by. Our sense of right and wrong. Justice. Are you innately angry? Kind. Compassionate? Maybe you live a life of servitude for others. Or perhaps you think nothing of stealing because the world owes you anyway. This is your own personal philosophy.
What’s the secret ingredient to magic writing voice sauce? That’s the thing. There is no secret. No magic pixie dust. Just pure unadulterated you. You are your own magic sauce. You just have to find the core drivers that fuel your interaction with life. Find it and it will define your voice.
Find your why.
Not just why are you telling this story, but why you write – what fuels it? And I don’t mean your poison of choice and passion doesn’t count. I mean what is in the core of your soul?
Love? Curiosity? Fear? Guilt?
But of course life isn’t just as simple as ‘finding your voice’. Psht Please. We are writers after all. We must endure conflict and strife in order to bleed masterpieces onto our pages.
No. Once you have found your voice, you then have to accept it’s yours. That’s harder than finding it in the first fucking place.
Vivienne Cass (1979) created a model of identity acceptance. Although originally to describe LGBT people’s journey to accepting their sexuality, it has been used across a variety of ‘identities’ and I think it describes a writers path to discovering their identity too. I’ve tweaked it to represent the writers journey to discovering their voice.
Stage 1: Identity Awareness/confusion – The individual is aware of being a writer and that voices exist but unsure of what theirs is.
Stage 2: Identity Comparison – The individual compares their voice to others, professionals or those they look up to. Perhaps even wanting it, or mimicking it
Stage 3: Identity Tolerance –The individual acknowledges and tolerates that their voice is different to others.
Stage 4: Identity Acceptance – The individual accepts their new voice and begins to become active in the “writing community.” Using and sharing their voice.
Stage 5: Identity Pride – The individual becomes proud of their voice and becomes fully immersed in “writing culture.”
Stage 6: Identity Synthesis – The individual fully accepts their voice identity and synthesizes their former “non voice” and their new voice identity.
What do you think? Does this ring true for you? One of my fave editors has an awesome post on finding your voice check it out here.
Have I found my voice? Actually, I appear to have found two. Which has opened a whole other shit storm in a can for me. Right now, I’m more confused than Twoface.
I write non-fiction fuelled by an innate and utterly persistent curiosity. That’s the value that drives it. But it’s styled with a caustic wit and peppered with whatever capricious tangents my mind happens to fancy.
I write fiction fuelled by:
cuddly toys, doe eyed teenaged looks, lust, secret guilty teenage pleasures, a sprinkling of meliorism and unwavering hope.
UGH. So full of daisies and pink fluff. God I hate that shit.
Except that I don’t because it’s the only diamond tipped drill bit strong enough to chisel through my cold dead heart.
Curiosity V.S. Hope
I mean seriously. They couldn’t be more different and I feel like my non-fiction voice is stronger than my fiction. What if I wrote fiction like I wrote non-fiction…? Should I? oh god. Should I? Excuse me whilst my brain dribbles out my ears after a shitsplosion of confused.
So who am I?
Sacha Black? Umm, there’s a minor technicality here that might possibly, under strict circumstances mean that there is a slight bending of what is classified as the truth, here.
Ok, how about:
A mum. A wife. A Project Manager. *shrugs*. Sure, but that’s not who I am. That’s what I do.
Ok, I’ll try again:
A lesbian. A mixed race,
twenty-five, ok fine, twenty-nine year old. Still wrong. That’s part of my identity but isn’t who I am…
I’m the girl who cowers behind her laptop screen, preaches a good preach, but is secretly riddled with self-doubt and plagued by a lack of confidence. See, that’s all true but still doesn’t fit.
Who am I?
I am the curious girl clinging to her meliorist nature who, despite her caustic wit and twisted outlook, will never lose hope. Yeah. That’s who I am.