- michelle m. davis
The Authentic Voice
Many people have asked me how my book’s going and when it will be published. After all, I’ve been working on this story for almost two years. While I thought I’d reworked and edited my manuscript to the point where it was “almost there,” after several Beta readers and my editor gave feedback this past winter I decided to listen to their comments. So I altered the beginning, the reason my main character leaves her fiancé, in an attempt to gain future readers’ sympathy and compassion for this character.
However when we went on vacation and I left my laptop at home, I had a realization - my revisions were not authentic. I had sold out my truth to what I thought others wanted to read. The plot, which I so carefully reworked, was solely done in an effort to gain reader approval. In essence, I gave up my authentic voice and the story I want to tell in an attempt to please others.
This “aha” moment caused me to pause and reconsider the original reason my main character decides to exit her six-year relationship. “Her” reason wasn’t wrong. I just didn’t do a good enough job of showing her emotions, thoughts, and doubts about her future husband. For me to truly share my story I would need to be better, dig deeper, and find another way - one that honors my authentic voice - to help the reader understand the main character and the motivation behind her actions. In essence, there was more work to do!
Maintaining an authentic voice in writing is only one way in which we try to balance what we want to say vs. what others might want to hear. How often have you found yourself in this predicament? Have you ever suffered speaking your truth because it didn’t coincide with the expectations of those around you?
I think most of us have. In fact, when I look back, I can see times when I’ve swallowed my words in fear of disappointing others or not being accepted. Sure we all know there are moments when we cannot blurt out our opinions, thoughts, and desires. But, if we continuously stifle our voice, what happens? Sometimes we just stuff those emotions deep inside till they eventually bubble over and we explode over issues that seem irrelevant (you know, “the straw that broke the camel’s back” moments). Yet years and years of ignoring our voice can manifest deeper into our physical bodies causing aches and pains, or perhaps even more serious maladies.
So how do we balance speaking our truth with biting our tongue? What can we do to honestly express ourselves without coming off too harshly or unintentionally hurting others?
This dilemma is certainly tricky and something I’ve been working on. In no way do I have the answers, but I have found some tools that help.
· Ask if you are speaking up to prove you’re right. If so, is it necessary? If we know that we’re correct and believe another is “in the wrong,” there is really no need to remind that person that he or she screwed up and that we had it all right. This is a time when you can internally acknowledge that you made a correct decision and let go of the need to verbalize your victory.
· Pause before responding. I’ve been known to “knee jerk” in my reactions, often spouting off at the mouth before thinking. While that can certainly serve to release emotion, it can also cause more problems, as a strong reaction can make matters worse (here is that “straw that broke the camel’s back” moment). Pausing allows you to consider, weigh options, and then decide the best course of action. In essence, it grants you time to carefully craft your message.
· Trust your intuition. If I’m in a situation where my body tells me that I am not owning up to who I am or that I am caving into the pressure of others around me, then I know it’s time to either speak my truth or gently remove myself. This doesn’t mean that you stand on your soapbox, loudly preaching your opinions. No, it’s gracefully saying what you believe in a respectful and kind manner.
· Be clear and precise. Take time to reflect upon what you want to say and how you want to say it. This is where I erred in my book. I wasn’t able to properly project my main character’s thoughts and emotions. So that’s why I now need to take the time to see how other authors accomplish this so I can better convey these feelings through my words.
We all are entitled to our voice and the right to express ourselves. But to increase the odds of being truly heard and understood, how we share our authentic voice is just as important as our actual message. While it would be fabulous to have my book sell multiple copies, that’s never been my reason for writing. After two years deep into “this project,” I’ve come to believe that the purpose for writing a book is not about the final product - a published manuscript. Instead I now know that I’m meant to grow and learn critical lessons along the way, one being using my authentic voice.
May we all speak our truths, tell our stories, and express our deepest emotions!