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Claim Your Voice

Forsyth, Limbs Shadow

We have trouble connecting with our own confident writing voice that is inside all of us, and even when we do connect and write well, we don't claim it. I am not saying that everyone is Shakespeare, but I am saying that everyone has a genuine voice that can express his or her life with honest dignity and detail. There seems to be a gap between the greatness we are capable of and the way we see ourselves and, therefore, see our work.
~ from "Writing Down the Bones," Natalie Goldberg

This observation, by beloved creative writing guru Natalie Goldberg, can apply to almost any form of endeavor. Art is work, work is art. Our personal capabilities are often hobbled by our fears of inadequacy. We must first believe we can. An act of faith even harder in the wake of actual failure. Goldberg's observation identifies two stumbling blocks. When we do connect and do something well, we don't claim it. And second, mind the gap. That span between capability and confidence.

We know well the two-edged sword that divides confidence from critical consensus. How can we be aware and supportive of our developing inner voice when the room may be shouting in unison to do better, differently, or altogether stop? We need to be able to tune in and tune out, as well as listen in when the world really has something to say. How do we know when it's the right time to listen? It's instinctive I think. That inner sense that says, "Hey, wait. That made sense." Our genuine selves are stellar expressions of being. Doing our best work may mean staying out of the traffic intersection of public comment as long as possible. As Goldberg advises, find and own the voice that is yours alone. Then be confident of a place in the room.

I generally urge new writers in my workshops to go slow moving from a "work in progress" to feeling a work is ready for critique. I think supportive and positive critique groups are useful in any form of project development, including writing, but they can also strangle innovation, strip the twinkle right out of pizazz. Not everyone should or will choose to be public with creative work but the first step remains the same. Be genuine. Silence the inner (or outer) critic, and create.

We all have something worthy to say about the world.
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