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On losing and finding your voice (part 2)

I was writing the other day about things that you can do to find your voice – your authentic writing voice. It links back to many of the other things that we’ve been talking about over the last few weeks. How authentic writing starts with step 1 - a few short words and a big lifelong challenge:

Find out who you are

It connects to some of the things I’ve been reading recently. The value of learning to toot, sweetly. Stephen Covey talking about how leaders need to find their voice if they’re to inspire others to find theirs.

There was a quote in the Covey book that reminded me of something. That sometimes losing your voice comes before finding it again. That’s what it was like for me anyway, and as the challenge this month is to write who we are, here’s a little bit about how I came to lose my voice and find it again.

When the fire goes out

The quote that got me thinking was this one, from Albert Schweitzer.

“In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out”

It threw me back to a time when my inner fire had gone out. Which is maybe how you’d describe burning out, or being depressed, or maybe I’d say it’s what happens when you really lose your voice. And coming back from that – well coming back from that point included writing my way back. Using words and writing to help find out who we are. Dark scribbles of poetry. Screeds of words that woke me up and demanded to be written, processed, expressed in the private space of my journal.

But alongside that goes the journey – the bigger journey that’s not about the words but the person who’s doing the writing. Learning who you are and who you’re being. Learning, developing, reflecting, seeking. The journey of exploration and discovery.

It threw me back to the time when I was just starting out with the exploration of ideas, daydreams, new possibilities – and how those dreams, those ideas would start to take shape, come to life as I wrote them, described them, dreamt them in the pages of my journal world.

And then starting to feel better. Starting to take more control over my dreams, my words, my world. Creating the world that I wanted as I shaped and was shaped by the words that I wrote. Leaving the corporate world where my words were not and could not ever be my own.

Some people can live with that. I’d come to realise that I couldn’t, and that knowledge was enough to give me the courage to move on.

Learning more about myself and my world. Learning – was it just a year ago? – how to switch my creativity switch on. (If you’re curious here’s how it works in three simple steps. 1. believe you have a switch 2. ask your unconscious mind to find it for you 3. switch it on. That’s it! Oh and I suppose I should warn you about step 4 – stand well back as the sparks start to fly!)

Waking up to your words

I know that travelling is a luxury that not everyone can afford. I was lucky enough – or was it determined, stubborn, hungry, persistent, crazy, knowing enough – to gift myself three months of travelling in Mexico last year. Senses coming back to life, and waking up my words. Writing long e-mails home to try and capture what I was seeing, hearing, feeling. Discovering the power, the joy of blogging my experiences of living and working in Oaxaca.

My words, my own words starting to come alive. My own story, the power of my own words starting to shine through.

I could start to hear the sound of my own voice again.

And when I set out to develop my own business I knew I had to explain it, tell it, sell it through the medium of words, through the immediacy of a blog. I’ve learned as I’ve gone along, listening to the words that jumped, sparked, flew out at me, that had their own energy and power. Recognised them for what they were.

The echo of my voice.

And went with that, trusting my instinct that what I’m doing here, focusing my coaching around writing – except it isn’t entirely the writing, is it, but the person who’s doing the writing, the person who’s finding their voice - that this focus was the right one because I knew it was ‘me’ talking

My words resonating – with readers, writers, colleagues, friends – who were recognising something different, more powerful, more energised – more me – in the words that I was starting to write. My voice unfolding in front of me, my voice getting stronger as a result of me writing it, rather than the other way round.

You don’t have to wait to find it.

Writing will help you to find your voice.

Sitting back and reading what I had written. Discovering the values, the truth, the stories that I was trying to tell. Learning more about who I was. Using that strength in turn to strengthen and develop my voice. Finding the courage to move from a whisper to a roar.

The voice you were waiting to hear

My advice, such as it is? Embark on the journey of discovery, whatever that means for you. Learn, consciously and joyfully about what happens to you along the way. Write and write and write – your own words, your own experience. Keep it private until you are ready.

Keep writing, learning and writing and learning. Listen, watch, learn. Learn to write and experiment, to doodle and dream, to whisper, to toot and to roar.

Keep writing. Until you have read in your own words the voice you were waiting to hear.

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  1. Rick Mahn says:

    Joanna, this piece really hits home a bit for me. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I’ve had the worst case of writers block, and it has hit me to the point that I have been questioning all that I write.

    This week, I’ve finally found a way to get myself back to a 30,000 ft. view of things. It’s helped. I’m not going to try and dive directly back in, but I am running with the thoughts when they do come along.

    During the past month or so, if I tried to write anything at all, the thoughts just dried up quicker than I could load any tool to write in. I have been trying to get myself to just pick up the pen and notepad that I keep with me everywhere I go, and simply write my thoughts there - no bootup, no program to load, no page to open just to write a thought or two. So far it hasn’t worked, but I’m remembering more.

    What you’ve written here really has meaning to me - it’s helping me organize my thoughts on my writing issues. Your words are helping me find mine.

    Thank you.

  2. Joanna Young
    Twitter: joannapaterson

    Rick, it’s good to hear from you.

    Sometimes we need to question what we’re doing and writing, and I’m sure that once you get through the other side of it that you’ll recognise and maybe even appreciate what that reason was, however frustrating it appears to the time.

    Thanks very much for your final words. This is what I want to try and do here. The affirmation is powerful.


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