In stand up comedy, the seasoned comics tell the noobies that "finding your voice" is the hardest part of the job. Even experienced comics admit they struggle as their "voices" emerge over time. Writer friends say the same. I guess any artist or performer struggles to find their unique bent and style of communication, but I'll go further and argue that any human shares the same challenge.
In comedy and writing, I don't think it's finding your voice, as much as it's letting your voice out. I think most of us know what we want to say, we just aren't sure how people will receive it. What we say = who we are. Therefore, if they reject the words, they reject us. And the more personal the message, the more personal the potential wound.
But how is this unique to artists? Don't we all guard ourselves in every relationship? Don't we present ourselves a certain way, whether consciously or unconsciously? Aren't we making choices about our "voice" everyday? Usually I know exactly what I think, I'm just afraid to say it. And often, I know what I want to write, but I'm afraid to say it my way. Maybe my way is too weird, or maybe it's too cliché. Maybe it's just too damn...too.
Then again, I could be wrong. Perhaps I'm a self-obsessed people-pleaser, but the rest of you are well-adjusted, independently-minded badasses. If so, I congratulate you. Either you are very fortunate, or just a bit ahead of the rest of us. But keep helping those of us behind you, because fear is the mightiest silencer.
And it's a tragedy isn't it? Because if the point of the world is that we each have a role to play and a unique spot to fill, what's the good in us hiding our true voices in art or everyday life? My favorite art, books and conversations, are the ones that surprise me--the ones which only that individual could have given me. This poem about a mockingbird is a beautiful take on it. In the beginning of the poem, the author listens to the bird mimic many sounds before he settles down to use his own voice here...finally.
from The Mockingbird by Mary Oliver
"...I have to wait a long time
for the softer voice of his own life
to come through. He begins
by giving up all his usual flutter
and setting down on the pine’s forelock
then looking around
as though to make sure he’s alone;
then he slaps each wing against his breast,
where his heart is,
and, copying nothing, begins
easing into it
as though it was not half so easy
as though his subject now
was his true self,
which of course was as dark and secret,
as anyone else’s,
and it was too hard -
perhaps you understand -
to speak or to sing it
to anything or anyone
but the sky."