Monday, July 21, 2008

Finding Your Voice

“Genre is our choice of the kind, the shape, the parts our writing, speaking or communication might take. Voice is our choice of words, rhythms, gestures, tones—the particulars, the individualities our writing, speaking, or communication might take.”
Richard Strong

This week, I am immersed in learning while at our annual retreat for Communities for Learning. In addition to the great food and great minds that are here, it is a chance for me to explore my own work and refine it. This year, we also have the option of participating in a daily writing block.

I was inspired to find my voice through my blogs during our summer retreat 3 years ago. At the time, I was frustrated in my job and struggling to find a purpose for what I do. After having spent a week with Richard Strong and Harvey Silver around engaging students, I came to our summer retreat ready to focus on literacy in social studies and to integrate what I had learned from Silver and Strong. Much to my surprise (and sheer joy!) Richard Strong was spending time with us as well!

I worked diligently on my protocol that week, being sure to sound like an expert and ready to impress people with my work and knowledge. And then I got to meet with Richard and share my work. He was very, very thoughtful and after reading through it and marking some pieces with a red felt tip marker, he put my work down and just looked a me. And looked at me.

I could tell he was searching for the right words and panic struck my heart - would I be rejected by someone I just felt invigorated by? How would I handle this devastating blow?

He leaned back in the chair and said something to the effect of "I have watched you these past two weeks learning and interacting with your peers. I know the content you are writing about and know that you know it as well. But what I read on this paper is not done in your voice. I don't know who is writing this or who they are writing to - but this is not you."

And so began my search for voice.

Our writing block today began with a discussion about the genre that we write in as Fellows, as well as how we share our work. And we discussed digging deep to find our voice and then crafting the mold in which can reside for others to read. I chose to participate in the writer's block because I want to stretch myself, to take some risks in my writing. Writing for a blog post is easy - but can I write a script or a portrait? Have I really uncovered my voice - or I am just putting one out there that sounds like me?

And so continues my search for voice.


Mrs. Kondrick said...


I was moved by your post. How very honest and soul bearing. I have had a similar experience these last few weeks. I have really had to stretch my self in my writing. I find it easy to write for most of my audiences, safe, politically correct narratives on things people want to hear about, but I have stopped listening to my "voice". Writing for me. I have begun to hear it this last week, and have discovered I do have a unique style and voice. I just haven't heard it in so long I had forgotten it was there. Good luck in the stretching process, I am sure you will be happy with what you hear.

Carol W. said...

What a wonderful post. I just received a comment that my voice shifted in my writing submission. I guess I need to work on finding my voice as well.

Mrs. Kondrick said...

A funny postscript... decided to so my next writing piece with a prompt from a Smithsonian initiative on photography. When I read my rough rough draft to my writing group they said, it sounds like you are hitting all the points on an outline, you have a specific style and voice, where did it go? Back to the drawing board... but at least i have a voice, when I can find it!