FINDING YOUR OWN VOICE

Rich Paschall – SUNDAY NIGHT BLOG

What is the best way to relate something?  When do you communicate well?  What is it that gets your point across?  When does your voice stand out in a sea of voices?  How can you be heard?  I like to think that I can write about anything, but the truth is some stories and essays are more widely received than others.  Why is that?  When you tell a story or try to make a point, when are you at your most effective?

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Certainly those with debating skills know how to line up evidence, organize their material, give weight and structure to their arguments and drive their points home.  For some that comes rather naturally.  They can readily see how point one leads to point two and on to point three.  They can see what supports each point along the way.  They understand when something needs extra support.  If they have a particularly effective quote, they know whether to play that card up front, or hold it back for a rebuttal in such a way that it is not “extra topical” but right on point.

For others this skill is acquired through study of argumentation as well as study of opponents.  If I say “this,” what is the likely response?  Will it be more effective to address this audience in a bold, out-spoken manner, or a soft and persuasive one?  Does my voice sound sincere?  Combative? Rude? Respectful?  When am I at my best?  When are people listening?

What if it is not an argument at all, but a simple point that is to be made?  When are you at your most interesting?  How do you capture the imagination of your listeners or readers?  There is not much point to advancing an argument if no one is listening, or reading, as the case may be.  What do you need at the open to get people’s attention?  Whether you are speaking to an audience or writing your point for Word Press, a good opening line is essential.  What is it though?  How do you find it?

Perhaps you wish to tell a short story.  Certainly there is a great oral tradition of story telling.  The earliest written stories were likely those that were passed along from generation to generation verbally.  If you sat down to write Beowulf out for a newly literate segment of the population, how would you begin?  Is the same opening effective on paper as it was sitting in the mead hall with your friends, having a glass of whatever (really, who knows what the heck that was), listening to a tale and wondering if that was Grendel or the Rolling Stones making noise outside?  If you were to make Beowulf into a movie…no don’t.  It’s been done, and so have many stories.  How can you make yours stand out?

By now, you have noticed that I have thrown out a lot of questions. I suppose you might think that this is the part where I start answering them.  OK, wait for it … Sorry, I don’t have the answers. I really don’t.  What’s effective for you, may not be effective for me and what is effective for me …

You get the idea. Different people are successful in different ways. What works for one is not necessarily what works for another. That’s because we are unique.  St. Paul would have told you in his unique letter writing style that each has his own gift. It is up to us to find that gift, that voice, if you will, and use it to be your most effective voice.

In looking back over recent weeks on Sunday Night Blog, where I have written for a lot more than just Sunday Nights, I wanted to find the most read and most commented upon pieces.  Of course, it is true that everything on Serendipity gets a lot of attention while only some things resonate on the other space.  What voice is heard there?  If we go by numbers then “Return of the Polar Vortex” caught the most interest.  I can certainly imagine that may be because of our interest in weather. Perhaps those doing searches were expecting to find a serious piece of scientific news, rather than a piece of satire that was more political and humorous than anything scientific, unless you are counting science fiction. I do find that these little satiric stories with a serious point or two, work well in that space I call my blog. Is that then the best way for me to communicate with the reader?

Whether you are writing a blog or telling a story at a family gathering, you will probably find your voice and it will be good. It may take a long time, years in fact, but don’t stop telling your story.  Some day you may be the best storyteller at Aunt Martha’s Christmas party and every gathering will bring friends and relatives to your side to hear your voice.  Or you may some day be the best writer in the blogosphere, and I will be reading you faithfully.  By the way, if you have answers to any of the questions above, please leave them in the comments below.  I really want to know them myself.

9 thoughts on “FINDING YOUR OWN VOICE

  1. Sometimes, it’s wise to take a hint. Most people prefer a light touch.

    I don’t ONLY write based on how much interest a particular post generates, but I take it into consideration. I eventually give up posting stuff when no one but me is interested. The historical stuff bombed so I quit. It took too much research and effort to write those posts if no one was going to read them. I draw the line at book reviews: I don’t care if NO ONE reads them … I’m a bookaholic and I WILL write and post reviews, but they are always my least popular posts. I don’t expect them to draw a lot of readers. Ditto for anything serious and issue-oriented. I know before I publish that they are not going to get a big response.

    Otherwise, I try to stay with stuff most people will like. Sometimes I’m shockingly wrong. And of course pictures are a big draw. Everyone likes pictures. And why not? I like pictures.

    But and there’s always a BUT — I’ve written things I love which no one but me and three friends “get.” I keep reworking them and republishing them until finally, they find an audience. Once in a while, I just gotta do what I gotta do. Thank you, John Wayne.

    Postscript:

    By the way, I totally agree. Beowulf? Not again. Please, no! I’ll read Chaucer in the original middle English. I’ll recite it! Anything but not Beowulf (in Westphalian Saxon, if you please). Maybe if they did the movie in Westphalian Saxon with subtitles, it would play better? Are there enough actors in Hollywood — or the world — who speak Westphalian? (If yes, please name them for extra credit.)

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    • After I wrote the above I thought there are people who will never get the Beowulf reference, and if they don’t get that they will not get the Rolling Stones being present in that time period. I heard in some English class along the way that you can not always expect to write down to the lowest common denominator but must sometimes lift the audience up to your level. That may not be true very often, but it sounded good in a college writing class.

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      • You see? All those English classes were not a waste after all!

        It’s fun throwing obscure miscellany into a post. A lot of our audience here are shockingly literate and well-educated, much more than I am. I’m glib. They are educated. They not only get it, but can expand on it.

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  2. Speaking of John Wayne, how about his “Words, MON-soor. Words are what people live by. Words are your life.”. The Duke aka Capt Jake Cutter in “The Comancheros” giving his younger colleague a lesson in ethics, morality, love and the priceless value of words. Rich, your use of words in personal and family stories have resonated strongly here. I like your conversational style. I’ve always used that approach myself. Subject matter is good food for thought. I know the old write what you know about mantra. I’m told people like my celebrity stories. But with my pledge to write more pieces for Marilyn’s space, I think a little variety is in order. We’ll find out if John Wayne was right, Pilgrim.

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  3. I’ve been blogging for five years and, it amazes me that sometimes I will are-write something several time, and then I’ll still see a few phrases that would fit better, or a synonym with a bit more bite. And other times, I’ll just sit-down, and it’ll roll off the finger tips, and hardly more than a few word changes are needed.

    I write about anything, and everything, and I haven;’t noticed a correlation of any one area that goes better. One thing, which really surprised me, is after 40 years in financial services, I never read much for pleasure.

    So, around eight months ago, I became a regular at the county library, picking a couple of books up at a time. Then, in mi-January, I started a “Recommended Books” tab, and I have already had over a hundred views. So, that tells me that people are looking for a good book list, and sometimes, the same books stay on its list for quite awhile. Bill Gates also has some book blogs. So, give bit a start.

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