Writing about Your Life: I Want to Hear Your Voice!

Kitchen

Kitchen (Photo credit: deborah|silverbees)

As I write today’s entry, I’m having trouble with my voice. You see, something in the air is irritating my throat and I’ve been coughing for the past four nights. My poor husband seems to be sleeping straight through my noise. Thank God for that, but I wake up feeling like I need eight more hours of sleep! Well, today I sound like Lauren Bacall, an actress who was known for her sexy voice back in the day. I just don’t sound like myself.  I am reminded that when you write, you need to sound like yourself also.  Now you might ask, “Who else could I sound like?” You’d be surprised.

I remember a comment one of my first readers gave me after I did my first draft of The Price of Pearls.  She was brutally honest. Her comments did not feel good to me, but I needed to hear the truth. She basically said that while my writing was very skillful, she couldn’t connect to me emotionally. She went on to say she needed to hear my voice, the Patricia she knew and loved. She needed me to forget about sounding professional and just talk like a woman sitting down with a friend. She wanted to pull up her chair to my kitchen table and have a cup of coffee with me. I have to admit my feelings were hurt, but I understood exactly what she meant. I went back over the entire manuscript and read everything I had written. I had a lot of work to do. I swallowed my pride and re-wrote a large portion of my story.  When I was finished a couple of months later, I e-mailed the revised story to her. After a couple of days, she greeted me at church with a broad smile and an encouraging comment: “Now that’s what I was talking about! I hear your heart now! I absolutely love the story! It’s raw and real!”

I encourage you to begin telling your story as if you’re sitting down at your kitchen table, giving your listener your undivided attention. Speak honestly and intimately with your audience every time you write. Let your reader hear your heart. You don’t need to impress anyone. Your reader will get more out of a real conversation than a formal speech in an auditorium. The reader wants to hear you, wants to walk with you, hear your hopes and your fears. The reader wants to laugh and cry with you. Welcome him or her into your private world. That’s where true intimacy takes place. By the time you finish the first chapter, you will be surprised that you will have discovered a voice which is uniquely yours.

Begin praying and looking for a first reader, someone who will encourage you and tell you the truth.  Don’t look for an English teacher or professional writer. You just need somebody who will tell you if you sound like yourself. Perhaps you know somebody who likes to read and is willing to give you some honest feedback without ripping you to shreds.

You’re on your way! Your dream is becoming a reality! Stick with it! Commit to taking as much time as you need to accomplish the goal of writing your story. For some people, that may be six months. For others, that may be a year. Still others may take longer. My book took longer than I anticipated. I stopped and started many times over a six-year period. You have to make time to write. It’s hardly ever convenient! Writing a book is like taking a walk, not running the Boston Marathon!” Many start the task; not everyone finishes.” A co-worker said those words to me when I told her I was writing a book. I was determined to finish after hearing those words.  I believe you will finish. Let me know where you are in your writing journey.  Send me a brief note. I’d love to hear from you!

Writing About Your Life: It’s in You!

Tomato & Basil Soup with Tortellini

Tomato & Basil Soup with Tortellini (Photo credit: nettsu)

“I grew up in a soup bowl.” No, I did not originally begin my story with those words, but that image came to me when I later thought about the twenty-one people who surrounded me in a three bedroom house. When I wrote The Price of Pearls, I knew I wanted to let my readers know that my life had some pretty colorful people in them.  My mother was a master at making turkey and beef soup. I remember watching her as she put in various ingredients, starting with onions and celery, tomato paste, whole tomatoes, and gradually added other items over several hours, tasting the delicious brew until she finally announced,”Soup’s ready!” Looking into that pot was like looking at the numerous faces in “the Big House,” my family home back in rural Anne Arundel County, Maryland.

I wanted to talk about my grandmother and grandfather, two people whose faces most reminded me about the blessings of growing up in an extended family. I wanted to talk about my mom, who embodied strength and  dignity, and my dad, who taught me that a hardy laugh was the remedy to taking life too seriously. Then there were my brothers, who provided were the original “Comedy Central,” and my sisters, who to this day are the most caring and giving individuals on this earth.

My story would not be complete unless I began unfolding some of the people whose struggles impacted my life very early on. Thus, I knew I had to include three uncles, one rather humorous, one tragic, and another pretty complex.  I had enough substance to begin my story.

What to include in your opening chapter is your decision. You don’t have to follow my pattern at all. In fact, you don’t have to begin with your early years. Some people focus their book on one central event in time and focus their entire book on circumstances surrounding that event. One writer I know wanted to tell the story of her emotional journey surrounding the loss of a pregnancy. The entire book goes from the joys of discovering the pregnancy and concludes with the loss and subsequent healing experience.  I believe God will show you what He wants you to write.  In fact, He’s probably already given you direction. Now it’s time to get started.

I would love to hear from you as you begin your story. Tell me how you’re starting. What’s your focus? Why are you writing? Who do you hope to help with your story? You have something important to say and I’m excited that you’ve answered the call and stepped out of your comfort zone. You don’t have to be a professional writer. You don’t have to have a college degree. God’s in it and He gives the ability. All you have to do is say YES! He believes in you! Catch up with you next time.

Philippians 4:13 declares, “I can do all things through Christ that strengthens me.”  Go for it!