That’s you, the messenger. It’s there, your voice. It is right there bubbling up inside you—you already knew that, didn’t you? But do you believe it? Do you trust it? Maybe you are thinking, “I just babble.” Well, I think I babble on and on, too, sometimes, but then I snap out of it and become coherent. You will find that very voice that knows what to say and how to say it so that the character and spirit of your mother will be revealed through your telling tale. It is simply a matter of hearing the authentic voice inside yourself and allowing it to guide your writing style. Speak from your heart directly onto the written page. No one but you can discover your voice. It is entirely up to you to find what is waiting there inside—awaiting your confidence and trust in it.
Simply put, voice informs memoir—it is the instrument you will use to tell your story. You are the narrator, the storyteller, and it is through your voice alone the story is told and controlled. Through your distinctive voice you will put together a short, true tale about things recalled, as only you can tell it. How to recognize your voice and believe in the value of its inflections, undertones, and energy is pretty straight forward, but you also must have faith. Think of it this way, when you speak with friends on the telephone, it takes a word, a couple at most, for them to know it is you on the other end of the line—without looking at caller ID! You can achieve a similar tone of voice on paper if your writing is genuine. Today when reading emails and text messages, it is interesting to note that people have unique mannerism and patterns in the way in which they get their messages across, allowing you to identify the person who sent the message even if the “from” area were to be blanked out. So, we have voice recognition and text recognition that do not require software or hardware programs, only our connectivity to each other—what a concept—human beings recognizing each other in spite of the technology.
Don't worry about whether there is a right or a wrong way to use your voice to write your story—there is no such thing as the wrong way. How you choose to put into words your rendition of whom she is, at her core, is exactly as it should be conveyed. Remember this Mother Memoir is an undeniably precious gift from you. It is a gift you are arranging to meet your needs, and you will write it just the right way. So have faith and confidence in how your story will sound in your voice. Think of it as your golden opportunity to pay tribute to or to better understand your mother in a way that is intrinsically yours.
The bottom line is to believe in yourself and your voice as the most honest and interesting form of communication. Write like you talk. Writing the story as though you were telling it to a friend or relative is essential so that the authenticity of your voice comes through. Keep in mind that you, and only you, can write this particular story about your mother, and her character can best be remembered if you write it down. I believe, “If we don’t write it down, it will be lost. Wouldn’t that be a shame?” Do you think what you have to say is worth saying? Do your friends enjoy listening to you tell an anecdote? When you begin to write, talk directly to the page in front of you, make it your new friend. You do have the voice it takes to write. Do you believe it? If not, why not? Maybe it is easier, certainly it makes us less self-conscious, to hear and appreciate someone else’s voice, although respecting your true voice is the key to writing well.
One woman in my workshop at Book Passage last Saturday inspired me to post this article on voice. When it was her turn to read her story in class, she was hesitant to read and genuinely apologetic about her work, but when she finished reading the short piece, the rest of us were spell bound by the power of her voice. She hadn’t, yet, completed her very poetic Mother Memoir, but we were left admiring her voice immensely and wanting to hear more. I believe she left with a promising, confident voice.