Journalism and public relations helped develop my writing skills, motherhood honed my voice.
As part of my effort to resurrect this blog, I’m participating in a 21-day blogging challenge provided by Jeff Goins, a writer and blogger I greatly respect. Day #3’s challenge was to define my “voice” as a writer. I asked people who know me well to give three adjectives or phrases that describe me.
A few words came up from more than one person: thought-provoking, insightful, honest, challenging, thorough. My favorite was a late-entry to the game from JulleAnn: lovely-fierce. She defined it as “power, love, humble and passion for a purpose.” I don’t know if lovely-fierce will become a part of standard English, but I love the concept!
This experience gave me and opportunity to examine my “voice” and try to map out how we got here. I certainly didn’t wake up one day and think, “I will now be insightful, challenging, comforting.” I think our voice develops much like our other characteristics — over time and with a lot of trial and error.
Sometimes we look at a high schooler and think, “I wish he’d be himself wherever he is. He acts one way at youth group and another way at school.” Yet, he’s exhibiting normal behavior for that age range that is technically called “middle adolescence.” They try to fit in.
When they hit late adolescence, ages 18-22 (yes, the time we tend to send them off to university without us!) they’re more capable of looking at characteristics in others and choosing which ones they want to integrate into their own identity.
My writing voice is the same way.
I’ve been influenced by many people throughout the years. And all along, I’ve chosen who could have a hand in honing my voice.
My college journalism professor, Dr. Beverly Pitts taught writing qualities I value — accuracy, relevancy, flawless editing. And if my writing scooped something, like Woodward and Bernstein scooped Watergate, so much the better!
In my first job out of college, I wrote a newsletter representing the (then) nine hospitals in Indianapolis. To go to press each month, the copy had to be approved by the nine presidents of the said nine hospitals. Accuracy and flawless editing remained. Relevancy took a hit. And if I dared scoop anything, I’d probably lose my job!
My next venture was hospital public relations. There, the point was to convince readers that Hospital X was the only place to go for (fill in the blank), and the press releases had to sound cutting edge. All. The. Time. It was in this arena that I learned to put a positive spin on just about anything!
Motherhood was my next “job.” And while journalism and public relations helped develop my writing skills, motherhood honed my voice.
I’m a naturally inquisitive person. I love research and study, including studying people.
As a mom, I studied other moms. And just like a recent high school grad, I began to identify characteristics I wanted to incorporate into my parenting, which then developed my voice.
Connie was always calm, methodical, not easily riled and (almost always) spoke in a gentle, soothing voice. I learned to step back for a moment before charging ahead.
Julie’s attitude seemed to be, “This is how kids are; I’m working to help him change that behavior, but it won’t happen overnight.” She helped me stop being embarrassed when my kids exhibited less than socially acceptable behavior in public, which happened once or twice. Or, maybe I stopped counting.
Later, I was influenced by mom’s of older children. When they talked about parenting issues they were facing related to dating, church, high school, etc. I grabbed onto and filed away that information like it was gold, even though our kids weren’t there yet. Later when we were facing similar situations with our kids, I’d tell Gary, “Debbie once said…,” or, “I remember when Dana…,” or, “Belinda thinks…”
As with everyone, I love to hear some speakers more than others. So my voice for writing youth group lessons emulated some of my favorites.
I’m sure my writing voice will continue to develop. I’m still influenced by people I admire and glean from. But for now, I’m comfortable with my voice. I’ve carefully selected what I liked in other people’s voices and blended those pieces together into mine.
Thank you Bev, for thoroughness and accuracy.
Thank you Connie, for helping me show comfort, yet be challenging.
Thank you Julie, for helping me have vision for things that could be, but aren’t quite yet.
Thank you Debbie and Dana for experience I gained through you before I had to act on it myself.
Thank you Belinda, for helping me choose carefully.
And, JulleAnn, thank you for seeing the Lovely-Fierce in me. Oh may it be so!