I just went to the sink and refilled my water bottle, then, unthinkingly screwed the lid back on and lifted the bottle to my lips. Duh! It’s hard to drink from a closed bottle, I chided myself. Impossible, really, I thought as I wandered back toward the twin bed here in Cabin 20 at the homeplace of the Founders of Highlights.
Of course, that got me to thinking once again of the voice workshop I just finished teaching. What a great metaphor for a “closed” voice, trying to drink from that bottle with its lid screwed shut. A closed, or inauthentic, voice has been stoppered. There is a wealth of water within, but the writer can’t get to it–can’t drink from it–without doing one essential thing: popping off the lid.
What have you stoppered inside your writer’s bottle? A cruel or uncaring parent? A homeland lost? A bully’s teasing? The way your dad once told you that it was “normal” for parents to prefer one child over another (and your knowledge that you were not the one preferred)?
If you’ve kept the lid on for a long time, it might be stuck shut, but a bit of loosening is usually all it takes. Ask yourself the question above about what is closed inside your bottle. As I did, within a few pen- or keystrokes, you’ll find something “ouchy” that’s well worth writing about.
5 Comments Add yours
I enjoyed reading your comparison between the closed water bottle and an author’s inauthentic voice. I think voice is when your personality comes across in your writing, art, or music. For example, I can always recognize James Taylor’s gentleness and personality in the lyrics of his songs. He seems to weave in bits of his soul in each song. (I’ve had a major crush on him since high school . . . way back when he had hair!)
You’re absolutely right. “Voice” is when YOU come across in your writing and “bits of soul” are woven into the work. I’ll steal that line for my next workshop if you let me!
Boy oh boy, I hope I’m there to hear that!
. . . still pondering voice.
I think the famed cartoonist, Charles Schulz, included “bits of soul” in each of his characters. He explained in an interview that his sarcastic side was Lucy. His wishy-washy side was Charlie Brown. His dreamy side was Snoopy. AND a redheaded girl once broke his heart.
Since my claim is that a writer gains authenticity when she writes from her life’s experiences (especially from emotion), then I would say that what Schulz said explains why his work had such strong appeal. His characters felt so real that those of us who read Peanuts as kids see them living breathing parts of our childhoods–just as they were true parts of their creator’s self. Great observation and insight!