12. Get comfortable with your voice.

To me, writing can sometimes feel like I’ve scooped out my insides with my bare hands, and handed them off to watch people squish them around in their fingers. There’s something intimate about putting your voice into the world, and it can be a terrifying thing to do. But if you believe you have something to say, then it’s worth saying. As long as you’re willing to accept that you might be wrong. 

In fact, I’m going to put myself out there to be wrong right now. I wrote down two versions of the above paragraph when I was prepping this series in November. The analogy above is verbatim one that I wrote circa 2011, and was fully prepared to use for this post. With the intention to not plagiarize myself, however, and as a writing experiment, I tried to take the metaphor further. Here’s what happened:

I had to get comfortable with not being afraid of myself creatively. Voice is a strange thing to find, and I was afraid of mine for a while. Imagine, for instance, that for some reason you make the decision to tear out your insides. You yank, and rip, and tear, and bleed. But the sheer torture of disemboweling yourself hasn’t quite quenched your thirst. So now, the only reasonable option is to hand them over to someone else, watch them poke around, grind and wiggle them in their fingers. Your innards are now on display for any and all to feel and interact with. That was how I used to feel about writing--that it was this torturous, horrific thing (1). Sometimes it is frustrating, and letting people see the things I’m working on is still terrifying, but I have learned to appreciate the rush.

I was recently flipping through my friend Rimmi’s art book when I came across the drawing above: the perfect embodiment of this sentiment I’d shied away from, but could appreciate in someone else’s work. You inspired me to march forth with a version of my voice I was unsure of. Thanks for letting me share it, Rimmi.  

I was recently flipping through my friend Rimmi’s art book when I came across the drawing above: the perfect embodiment of this sentiment I’d shied away from, but could appreciate in someone else’s work. You inspired me to march forth with a version of my voice I was unsure of. Thanks for letting me share it, Rimmi.  

When I was reading over my notes for this post with the two juxtaposed, it felt pretty dark, and way outside of my usual tone. But when I read it over again, I know that the words come from a place somewhere inside of me that I still identify with. The extended metaphor is pretty dark, but sometimes speaking up--about politics, our fears, the things that make us uncomfortable--can make us feel that beaten and disgusting. These feelings aren’t easy to accept, and they’re certainly visceral to picture, but there's still a melody to them. 

Acknowledging more painful emotions helps me grow more comfortable in them. Growing comfortable in the discomfort of sharing my voice has allowed me to not only accept that sometimes I will fail, but also rejoice in the attempt to try again until I find words that suit me. 

Getting comfortable with voice isn’t easy. Voice is about self confidence, and self confidence, as Sarah Kay says, tastes funny in your mouth.  But voice is also about confronting your demons, acknowledging where you came from, and standing forth to do better next time (or making enough mistakes until you can). 

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1. A sentiment beautifully discussed here by Elizabeth Gilbert.

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