Let Your Voice Be Heard (Or Read)

I don’t really play many Christmas songs for myself. Generallly, I get enough of them from the world around me in stores and in commercials. But for some unexplained reason I found myself at iTunes this week searching for Christmas music and discovered Christmas with Weezer. Whether it’s the crazy distortion on the guitar or just the moody tone, the band has stayed true to these classic songs while giving them new life for me.

And that’s one of the great beauties about art. Musicians, like other artists, can add their personality to their craft, making it their own so that no one song will sound the same when performed by two separate artists.

Writing is the same. Voice is so important to what we do. Writing voice gives our work personality. Character voice makes the players in our story stand out from each other. Two writers can tackle the same story with the same plot and characters and come out with different versions, completely unique thanks to the voice of the writer. Agents love it too as many of them say strong voice is what they look for in a writer’s work.

So how can writers perfect the art of voice? I often wrestle with this. I have the tendency to write out the voice in my writing. By this I mean, I appreciate craft and know this is also something readers and the publishing industry both value. Good writing is essential. But when I am too conscious of the craft of writing, the voice is dull. If I’m not careful, my focus on the structure can kill voice when I sit down to write.

So I try to find a balance, knowing I must have both. I’ve always felt the best way to write with great voice is to give myself permission for imperfection. Then the voice comes. After all, when the first draft is finished, I can go back and fix things that fall under the umbrella of craft. Most important to me is that the writing has personality and that the audience has read something from a unique perspective. So I hope you find inspiration in the arts this season and here’s to letting our voices speak.

 


A Song for the Crowds

by Marianne Su

They start calling my name as the lights dim.  The others run up the stairs ahead of me.  Their appearance triggers the familiar chant and flood of lights.  It’s a ritual that repeats itself, punctuating my life, night after night.  An outstretched hand slaps me on the back as I step onto the stairs and force my reluctant legs to carry me into the spotlight.

The noise erupts as the band starts up.  The bouncing bodies and waving hands are anonymous until the floodlights reveal their faces.  I scan the front row.  Night after night they all look the same.  Wide eyed with expectation and admiration, they shout out to me, indistinct and meaningless.    

With the first chords of the guitar, darkness swallows them whole again, leaving me with the brutal allusion that I’m alone on stage with the music.  I grab the microphone and yell out the words the way they like.  Erupting screams compete with a chorus of voices singing lyrics.  I close my eyes to focus on the night I wrote that song, the night the words meant something, before they were claimed by the voices of thousands. 

As their song comes to an end, I ease my eyes open to face the crowd.  With a mental swift kick, I remind myself that this is the wish of every dreamer with a guitar.  I had a good thing.  If only I hadn’t lost the music along the way.