On Voices

A few weeks ago, I visited the blog of a well known Christian author. She seemed like a cool person, but I ultimately remember leaving her blog feeling very disconnected. While she had lots of good points, I remember thinking that she lived in a totally different world. She was white. She married her college sweetheart. She’s spent the last several years raising kids and writing. That’s her world. I cannot relate.

I’m a black woman from the south side of Chicago who married well after college (let’s not talk about how long, thank you). I don’t have kids. I have spent most of my life alone, searching for Mr. Right. Our lives could not be more different. I felt sad leaving her page because I didn’t connect to that world. It was just too big of a leap.

Eventually, I realized that I’m just tired of hearing the same voice. White, Christian, married in/right after college, lots of kids, making a life of writing. It seems like “the story.” And I don’t have that story. I can’t even relate to that story. And then the question rose, Why should I have to?

When I think about myself as a writer I think about my voice, the uniqueness that I bring to everything I write. I think of my voice as DNA. You never really see it, but the effects of it are infused into every topic, every narrative, and every word choice. It’s the combination of  my experience, my knowledge, and my worldview that underlies everything else. I could go into a detailed description of the writers I enjoy and the distinctiveness of their voices, but I’ll spare you that. I’ll summarize here by saying that there are certain writers that have been able to connect with me in a deep and personal way, not because of the information being transmitted, but because of the voice. And the voice of a writer is heavily influenced by their story.

Last week I did some writing about my story and the fact that I may have to begin to share it.  I am still thinking about what form this will take. A bit of honesty here: I’m not the biggest fan of my story. I really wish lots of things had gone differently. But they didn’t. And as a result I have the story that I have lived — the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Part of me wants to ignore the hard parts. Sweep them under a rock somewhere. But the more I think about it the more I see how wrong this is. The more I learn as a writer the more I realize that all voices are needed. 

As a reader, the voice of the writer makes all the difference. It’s true of fiction and nonfiction. It is  especially true in a Christian context. But it’s bigger than that. The writer’s voice shapes every word in the newspaper. It shapes every blog. It shapes everything said on Twitter.  

So while I may not be particularly thrilled with the way some parts of my story turned out, I do have an appreciation for the fact I can speak to certain things in ways that others cannot. That makes me feel unique and I think my story has value because of that.  But even that it isn’t the most important thing. The most important thing is that my voice is available for those that need to hear it.  

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