(I understand that in many circles “authentic” has become a buzzword. Yet I continue using it in the context of writing, because I know that beneath its overuse, its essence remains untarnished.)
Some say that our authentic voice is not to be found, but rather, developed. Some say our authentic voice equals our world view. Some say our authentic voice emerges from the subconscious.
Yes, yes, and yes. But that’s not all.
I was chatting with my teaching partner, Debbie Anne, who writes beautiful, raw, evocative prose and poetry. As we discussed the subject, she mused “how do we know if we are really writing from our authentic voice?”
Well, the answer we agreed upon is this:
We don’t have just one authentic voice. We have many.
We are multifaceted human beings with a plethora of personalities inside of us. I know it sounds a bit Sybil, but it’s actually very healing and empowering to understand the different archetypal aspects of our own nature. Most of us operate unconsciously from one or two primary parts (usually, wounded ones.) Once we are aware of this, we can make a conscious choice to act from a different place.
I think writers are especially prone to well-developed “inner-aspects.” As F. Scott Fitzgerald said…
Writer’s aren’t exactly people. They’re a whole lot of people trying to be one person.
I’m not just a writer and a wife. I also have a playful and sensitive inner child. I have a dark, depressed goth girl inside (with awesome clothes.) I have a hippie. A wise witch. A snob. A temptress. A healer. The list goes on and on. (And mine will be different than yours.)
Before I became a coach and learned this inner aspect model of the psyche, I thought there was something wrong with me. I couldn’t figure out who, among all these Athenas, I really was! Now I get it. I’m all of them. No one part of me is more authentic than another. They all have their place. Even the super shadowy aspects I, um, decided not to list above.
So, if we have multiple authentic parts of our personality deep inside, doesn’t that also mean we have multiple authentic voices in our writing? I think so.
Ask yourself this question: who am I when I am writing?
Chances are your answer will be different depending on what you are writing. You aren’t the same person writing a blog post as you are when you’re working on your book. Or even a poem.
There are many voices inside of you that want to be heard. And you can identify their level of authenticity by the way you feel when they are expressing. When you slip into that deep, beautiful, space where the words carry you away, you are touching truth.
Many writers will advise you to pick a voice and stick with it in order to establish yourself in your genre. But I say don’t be afraid to experiment with different voices to find which ones feel the best. (Or have the most to say.) If you’re concerned about writing from multiple voices, consider having more than one website and using a pen name.
You will also find that your voices change over time. What was authentic for you today will not be true for you in ten years. It’s an ever-evolving process. Let that fact loosen your grip on doing it right.
Exercise To Help You Find Your Voice(s):
List all the aspects of your personality that you can think of – even the ones you’d rather not look at (especially those.) Then let each one express themselves in writing. Don’t judge and don’t censor.
In closing I’d just like to say that all of this is a bit like trying to analyze every brushstroke in an abstract masterpiece by Picasso. In truth, your voice(s) are fluid and work together (a bit like a small chorus of your inner aspects.) But sometimes deconstruction is helpful.