Thursday, February 16, 2012

Finding One's Voice

After the Grammy's, I was wondering what it is about Adele that has brought about such a massive, cross-generational following. Earlier, just before announcing Song of the Year, all the nominees were on screen. And all of them were carefully-crafted personas while Adele was simply a person. When she performed, there were no over-the-top dancers, special effects, or embarrassing attempts to be edgy or shocking. There was a stage, a microphone, and Adele. It's that kind of strong talent and stark authenticity that makes people take notice.

To be able to reach deep enough to find creative authenticity isn't easy. Hemingway's famous goal was to write "one true sentence". It was hard then and is, perhaps, even more difficult now. We're constantly exposed to endless voices and chatter in our real lives, our virtual lives. In social networks, we're sometimes encircled by invented lives. And it's difficult to find a quiet corner, a still space, where we can hear our own voice, let alone find a way to have others hear it.

I've read about all kinds of tricks. Abandon social networks as if you were giving them up for Lent. Write down the exact time of day when you'll write and stick to it. Set a timer. Keep writing until the timer goes off. These may be adequate exercises in discipline, but is that how to create your best work? To find those core truths needed to create something authentic, something without contrivance or shallowness, time and quiet remain the best partners. Not only to be able to hear oneself think, but to understand what's being said. To peel away the protective layers until the honest, sometimes uncomfortable core of an idea is revealed.

Once that core idea has been grabbed and turned over and held tightly again, all those methods of accountability come into play. It's the turning point that divides the writers from the daydreamers, those who aspire from those who do the hard work. And in the end, to take a found truth and chisel at it until readers can see it as clearly as you do, is to reveal the heart of Hemingway's "one true sentence".


  1. Karla, I agree wholeheartedly with what you've said here. We need to find the true stories we want to tell, and then the accountability methods work well for helping us see those stories through. On the other side of it, sometimes the accountability methods help us find that voice because they help us build the habit of writing regularly, which I think helps us learn what we truly want to say. A funny chicken and egg problem in some ways. :)

  2. You're so right, Jenna.I think solid accountability methods, like those I know you've explored, DO give writers time and quiet--which is the important combination. And certainly writing regularly needs to be part of the equation.