“Writing isn’t about ‘having written.’ It’s about “doing” the writing. It’s a weird spiritual practice, sort of, through which we find our voice.” –Shawn Odyssey writer, musician, composer on Defining Your Voice at the Sierra Writers Conference January 20th, 2018
In this post I’ve shared some of my notes and the story Velma’s Man from Shawn’s Defining Your Voice workshop at the Sierra Writers Voices & Vision Conference in Grass Valley last Saturday.
Skip the brief notes and go straight to the story below if you wish!
Or listen to it on Soundcloud here or here:
After the notes you will find the story I wrote during Shawn’s workshop and read out loud (holding a microphone, yikes!) from the prompt: You’ll Never Believe What Happened at the Company Picnic Yesterday.
Um, my legs were like soggy spaghetti noodles when I finished reading to the small audience. Me thinks more practice is needed!
This was my first writers conference (woohoo! the ’18 writing goals!) and lemme tell ya, it was so good to sit, listen, take notes, and absorb so much great information about writing! I could almost imagine being a registered student in college again! Almost, but not quite ;-).
Gary Noy’s Keynote Speech about The Importance of Research in Writing was an eye-opener. Do your research diligently. Follow the leads back to the original document. Assume errors along the way may have resulted in completely bogus fictional information being presented as fact!
He gave the example of Bateson’s Belfry Mythology. Apparently, cited in medical texts and many other places as fact, George Bateson and his “belfry” was complete fiction. He was a character in Michael Crichton’s 1975 Novel The Great Train Robbery.
“Research should serve the story – not vice versa.” – Gary Noy
I attended three workshops and all of them were educational and experiential plus, Grace Totherow performed amazing poems, by heart, exceptional!
- Patricia Dove-Miller – Non-fiction – recommended Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones and Wild Mind – Discussed Writing Practice and wrote from two prompts “I remember” and “I remember a favorite place.” The words I wrote to these prompts will become part of the story of my mother – someday. Powerful stuff.
- Sands Hall – Fiction – Discussed strategies for strengthening POV and how to “show” rather than “tell.” Use all the senses of sight, sound, smell, taste, touch, etc…
- Shawn Odyssey – Poetry/Performance – Defining Your Voice – The most complex, sort of intangible, workshop was Shawn Odyssey’s Defining Your Voice. I’ve written out the notes below hoping you’ll glean something helpful from them.
My over all impression: The process of finding and defining our own unique voice seems elusive, and perhaps, difficult to describe. Formulas such as, “do A then B then C then ta-da you’ve found your voice” don’t work.
Shawn’s workshop focused on defining our unique and original voice as writers and poets but, I can easily imagine his advice applying to other art forms such as music, painting, and photography.
Shawn defined “style” as being the craftsmanship of writing, the learned rules, techniques, etc. You can write in a certain way in order to emulate someone’s else’s writing. That’s style.
But, voice. It’s a different animal.
According to Shawn, voice is, “the inside thing, that is mysterious, that drives our writing.“
You can watch Youtube videos of him reading his poetry on his website. Hearing him talk about “voice” in person and listening to him read his poetry, I can sense his unique “voice,” but I cannot describe it adequately. I don’t mean his literal voice.
I mean his unique literary voice, the part of him that can come only from him. It’s deeply contemplative, questioning, humble, but sure that he’s on to something. There’s a slow deliberate pace that allows for space to contemplate each line, each thought, no rush. There is a whole lot more there but, I am no expert. I just know his “voice” got my attention.
Shawn described our voice as being the art part in our writing, the part that is original and unique to each of us.
He went on to say that our own unique voice is there in our writing, but it is often buried beneath the “rules” of writing – the style/craftsmanship, the suggested edits by others who are seeing our writing through their own eyes & experience, their own voice influencing editing opinions.
Editing is still important! But, be aware, hang onto and fight for, what is your truth and your characters’ truth in your writing.
Shawn’s advice was to, “take a blind faith jump, trust yourself, and write what you need to write rather than what you think others want to hear.”
He suggested that we don’t trust ourselves when we write and we look to others to validate our writing, such as through publication.
In order to find our own unique voice we must trust ourselves, we must see through and break “bad habits (that) keep our dragon from being released.” The dragons being the “rules” and other parts of style, our fears, mistrust of ourselves, etc.
This really got my attention: “Your unique voice will resonate, not your ‘great idea.'”
Reminds me of the quote, “They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel” which I’ve read has been attributed to Maya Angelou and others.
End of notes.
Here’s the story I wrote from Shawn’s writing prompt (10 minute writing time):
The Prompt: You’ll Never Believe What Happened at the Company Picnic Yesterday (only punctuation partially edited from my handwriting)
Velma’s Man (listen on Soundcloud)
We were sitting at the table, small talk, adventures with our doggies and such and Velma says, “I went to Alaska last summer and met the man of my dreams.”
She was beaming and obviously couldn’t wait to tell us all about this hunk of a man she’d hooked up with.
Last year’s man, wait, what happened to last year’s man? I wanted to ask.
Well, anyway, I had to get out of the conversation but Velma kept droning on. Eventually, it was time to get in line for the burgers and all the things that go along with the picnic scene. Thank God, cuz I was sure I couldn’t keep my question to myself much longer.
What happened? About the time we all sat back down with our plates full of cholesterol, I noticed Velma looking a bit distant, in fact, she was turning a pale shade of white and her hands went up to her throat. I knew in a split second there was no time to waste. I jumped up off the bench and ran the ten or so steps around the table, bent down enough to get my arms around her middle, applied my fist to her solar plexus, placed my other hand over it and gave her a giant, sudden strong squeeze. Out came the bit of burger that had lodged in just the wrong place.
Adrenaline rushing, heart pounding, I asked if she was okay and when she nodded yes, I sat back down.
Her man? I don’t know. I didn’t hear a word she said after that. I just kept thinking how much I loved hearing about Velma’s wild adventures after all.
Thank you for reading “Velma’s Man!”
For a few weeks, I’ve been thinking about recording my poetry and stories on Youtube or somewhere, just for fun. Seeing Shawn read brought this idea back to my consciousness.
Would anyone care to share their opinions or recommend posts about the best way to go about this? Do you like to watch or listen to authors read?
I would love to hear what your experience has been finding your unique creative voice! Can you describe it? What has the process been like developing and trusting your artistic voice?
If you enjoyed this post you may like Quotes of Wisdom 13 The Soul of Creativity.
*Quotes of Wisdom – a Friday at 9am (Pacific Time Zone) series offering Wisdom, Feel Good, Inspirational and Thought-provoking Quotes. Sometimes with links and most likely, with too many thoughts of my own included.
As always, thank you for visiting! Feel free to like, comment, share, follow my journey or re-blog as your heart and mind desire. Namaste