Finding Your Own Voice, by Rich Paschall
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?
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 upfront 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 the study of argumentation as well as the study of opponents. If I say “this,” what is the likely response? Will it be more effective to address this audience in a bold, outspoken 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 out Beowulf 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, what was that stuff?), listening to a tale, and wondering if that was Grendel or the Rolling Stones making noise outside? How can you make your words 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. 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 and Serendipity, I wanted to find the most read, liked, and commented upon pieces. What voice is heard? I notice there was much interest in the personal stories. Early in my writing experiences here, Marilyn encouraged me to write about my trip to England and I posted several pieces. Much to my surprise, they continue to be found and read. I am sure it is not so much the personal story, but the adventure of it. Don’t we all love to look at articles on travel and the pictures they contain? Short stories and social commentary find varying success, and everyone has a comment or story about politics lately.
Recently we posted the importance of telling YOUR STORY. It is not something you have to publish on Word Press or Blogger or any social media site. We may be interested in your personal antics, but you may not be prepared to tell them. Should you tell them at all? If you are not a blog writer, should you not pass on your stories of ancestry to your family anyway? What do you remember that this generation may want to know? What about the next generation? Can you find the words to tell them?
Whether you are writing a blog or telling a story at a family gathering, you will find your voice and it will be a good one. 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 someday 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.