Seek to voice

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Friday, December 13, 2013


I AM lying on my bed with my eyes closed, my mind empty but at the same time struggling for words, thoughts, and the will to get up and write.
It is sometimes called “writer’s block” or an inability to write.

The reasons could range from laziness to despondency to a lack of inspiration to oh so many other non-thoughts that make you want to just lie down and sleep, the computer screen as blank as your mind.

In my writing classes, many of my students speak of their fear of writing, saying that they are afraid of making mistakes, and that they really have nothing to say.

I always share one writer’s words with them: “Seek to voice, and your voice will follow.”

Today we shall talk about one final element in writing, which is “voice.”
In my writing classes, I always ask my students for the point of view of a literary piece.

If you know your personal pronouns, it would be very easy to spot the first, second, or third person points of view.

My next question might be about the tone of the voice in the piece.
By this, I mean the attitude of the persona towards the subject.
Voice has something to do with all these things: point of view, tone, persona.

However, before we can even speak about the details of voice as an element of writing, you must find your voice as a writer.

In Cristina P. Hidalgo’s words: “Your voice is related to tone which is your attitude towards the subject which comes out in your choice of words. It is also related to style which is very difficult to define.”

In other words, voice is the “you” that comes out in your writing.
Your take, your perception, and you responses to life according to who you deem yourself to be shows through the interstices of any written piece.

What you write about and how you write about it in your choice of words to create setting, character, and story through imagery all reveal your innermost mind and heart.

Much like the face we put on every day before we go out into the world, “persona” is the mask worn by the writer on the page.

Each persona or character created on the page bears the mark of the writer’s personality.

Paradoxically, that which is created on the page is not the writer.
This is because no single piece of written work could ever capture the full reality of a writer as a person.

Something about you always shows through, however, one part of the many3 things that you are.

In Anne Tyler’s words, “I write because I want to have more than one life.”

In a deeper sense, our inability to write may come from those moments when we feel life closing in on us, and expression of the self becomes blocked.

Remember the eagle in our last article?

Like the eagle behind bars, your “voice” as a writer may be so caged, unable to find its expressions, perhaps itself unwilling to be set free.
These are actually the times when we need to write. In Butch Dalisay’s words, “the knowing is in the writing.”

There is always something within that seeks to be expressed, most especially when we cannot find the words for it.

I have said before that writing can be a healing exercise because it allows us to create a space around ourselves and our lives.

This space gives us another angle from which to view whatever is happening in our inner and external worlds.

Toni Morrison once said: “I wrote my first novel because I wanted to read it.”

Write when you do not know, read what you have written, and discover that that which is the most precious within you, the “you” that seeks to voice, is never lost.

In Its Eyes

There it stood,
king of the skies,
talons hard-curled
against the concrete floor,
great wings forever folded
against its body
forever caged,
alone,
oblivious of me
looking up
at its eyes
which had once seen
places that I,
helpless spectator,
had never even reached -
vast oceans,
mountain peaks,
open sky.

Its eyes
held me captive,
made me see
what it saw
beyond the bars,
and I was
where it would always be-
out there,
far away,
wings spread wide,
soaring,
free.

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on December 14, 2013.

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