WHERE’S MY SHIP? By Marilyn Armstrong

I was out in Arizona talking to a Blue Corn Navajo lady who made jewelry. She had carefully given me her tribal affiliations and all I had to say was “Eastern European Jewish,” which lacked panache. I don’t seem to have much of an ability to show a lot of dash in casual conversation. Whatever talent I have, it’s more introverted.

Nonetheless, it was a good conversation. I casually said I was ” … waiting for my ship to come in and hoped it had a fortune on board for me.”

Photo: Garry Armstrong

She asked me, seriously, whether I’d been out on the docks looking for my ship. Looking for my ship? She said “Yes, you have to watch for them. Otherwise, they can pass you by and you’ll never know you missed it.”

I’m sure I forget for years at a time to go look for my ship. It’s probably come and gone and I’ll never see it, even in the foggy distance.

It’s like looking for your writer’s voice. Recently, a lot of people have claimed to be looking for it. Or grumpily asserted they can’t figure out what it is and thus will never find it.

Your writer’s voice is you. Written. It is how you feel, what you mean. In words. Written down. That’s it. The beginning and the end of it. Anyone can find it, but you have to be looking for it. Most people are not looking. They are afraid to find it.

They think they are looking, though. They think your “writer’s voice” as a kind of style or form. Not true.

Your “voice” IS you. You are your voice. Once upon a time — more than 40 years ago –someone told me I wrote like I was afraid my mother would read it. I realized she was right. I was afraid my mother would read it. I didn’t want to hurt her feelings. I could not find my voice until after she died because I was afraid of what I might say.

The voice was there. I just wasn’t ready to use it where anyone might hear me.

If you are looking for your voice, stop reading books about it. A college course isn’t going to help you. Write how you speak and write what you say … the way you really say it. You should go back to your writing and read it aloud. It should sound like natural speech. More to the point, it should sound like your natural speech. If it doesn’t, rewrite it. If it sounds stilted and phony, it is.

Not everyone needs to find their voice. If what you want to do is write about what’s going on in the world, you only need to write well. Your voice need not come into it.

I want to add a bit here on style and form. Style and form (or format) are not your voice. They are formulas and relate to whatever type of writing you choose as your specialty. In other words, your audience or readership. If you are writing for children (for example), there is a rather rigid formula (with which I almost entirely disagree), especially if you want schools to use your work. Really great kid’s writers have ignored the formalities of the genre and written what they wanted to read when they were young.

I was planning to be the next great “author” although I was never sure what kind of great author.  Everyone tells you to “write like yourself.” Except when you are young, you aren’t sure who “yourself” is. Maturity is terribly time-consuming. It can take most of your life.

The book to read

Finding your voice means letting go of the writers you admired and not trying to sound like them. It means hanging loose. It doesn’t matter what you are writing about, whether it’s for kids, technicians,  news-readers, or lovers of magic.

Many of us are unready to find our voice because we’re afraid our mother, father, pastor, brother, or husband will hear us. Worse, they might understand us and then, maybe, they won’t like it. Or us.

As for my ship? I’m not hanging out by the dock, watching for it. For all I know, it’s already on its way back to wherever it came from.

Categories: Arizona, Author, humor, Marilyn Armstrong, Photography, Writing

Tags: , , , , , ,

15 replies

  1. How perfect! A brilliant description in fact. I love it! and I couldn’t agree more! There is such a difference between your “audience” and what you say. Thank you


  2. I always say write what you know! Be real, be authentic! People will appreciate it and want to read you if you are real and authentic.


  3. I used to have a better writer’s voice, but now I write carefully in fear that hubby or my back neighbor might read what I’ve written and get upset. Heck, I actually had to delete a post because my neighbor became incensed that I didn’t like her and then became a troll on my blog. I don’t need that, especially since I have to look at her through the fence when I go outside. Of course, I could always resurrect Not CM and continue to say whatever I damn well feel like …


  4. All full of great advice on life and writing.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. The Navajo lady had a lot of good advice Marilyn.


  6. I enjoyed reading this…


Talk to me!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Thoughts & Theories

My Personal Rants, Ravings, & Ruminations

Our Eyes Open

Come along on an adventure with us!

France & Vincent

Writing Magic, Myth and Mystery

Barb Taub

Writing & Coffee. Especially coffee.

This, That, and The Other

Random musings on life, society, and politics.

Keep it alive

A look at life, achieving good physical and mental health and happiness

Covert Novelist

Just another WordPress site

Salted Caramel

Blogging, Motivation, Lifestyle and much more.

Sarah's Attic Of Treasures

Making My Home A Haven is important to me. Sharing homemaking skills. Recipes and food. Bible Studies. This is a treasure chest of goodies. So take a seat. Have a glass of tea and enjoy. You will learn all about who I am.

Green Screen

The Environmental Movie Podcast

bushboys world

Photos of my world and other stuff I hope you will enjoy too. Photos taken with Canon PowershotSX70HS Photos can be purchased.


Independent views from someone who offers some historical context

My Blog

Just another WordPress.com site

National Day Calendar

Fun, unusual and forgotten designations on our calendar.

Cee's Photo Challenges

Teaching the art of composition for photography.

Trent's World (the Blog)

Random Ramblings and Reviews from Trent P. McDonald

Views from the Edge

To See More Clearly

serial monography: forgottenman's ruminations

wandering discourse, pedantic rant, self-indulgent drivel, languorous polemic, grammarian's bête noire, poesy encroachment approaching bombast, unintended subtext in otherwise intentional context, unorthodox unorthodoxy, self-inflected rodomontade, …

draliman on life

Because sometimes life just makes you stop and think

The English Professor at Large

Posts about old Hollywood, current concerns



The Day After

Musings, Photography, Writing, and More



Chronicles of an Anglo Swiss

Welcome to the Anglo Swiss World


Your Source For The Coolest Science Stories

A Day In The Life

People, Places, Nature, LIFE!

Curious Steph

explorations on the journey of living

%d bloggers like this: