Finding Our Voice By Using It

Today, Nikki Carpenter from Nikki and the City published “5 Ways to Tell You’re Growing As a Blogger,” and posed the question: What are same ways you’ve grown as a blogger? As I reflected on her question, I realized that I’ve grown the most as a higher ed professional, a writer, a critical thinker, and a person by owning my thoughts and realizing that

The way to find your writing voice… is to use the one you’re already working with.

Here’s what I mean:

At the beginning of the year, I decided to re-invigorate my quest to find my writing voice’. I’ve been writing ever since I can remember, and my ‘voice’ has evolved as much as I have in those years of exploration and growth. However, I realized that I was saving all of my best work for outside pitches and submissions. I appreciated the exposure, but realized in the process that my ‘readers’ had nowhere else to refer to: no home base to find my work, until I created JadeTPerry.com.

When the site was created, I felt under so much pressure to infuse profundity into each and every post. [And if you’re skimming and reading ahead, just know, that’s not how any of this works…] It was very easy to feel stuck. It was also very easy to deduce that the REASON why I felt stuck was because I needed to do more work on finding my voice, as a writer.

So, I took a course. It helped in that it gave me a vision, an imagined audience, and a context. But after some time, the question resurfaced: “How can I communicate my full and authentic voice”? How can I make my ‘voice’ match my ‘brand’?

As I was wrestling through a piece, I realized that for me… and so many other writers / bloggers… the notion of ‘finding my voice’ can be used a crutch for not wrestling with, clarifying, coaxing, and using the one you already have. Nikki also alludes to this in her post.

Let me put it this way: I have been singing for even longer than I have been writing – filling in background vocals as needed, directing choirs, working on small projects here and there. My vocal coaches gave me an exercise and eventually, I’d be expected to sing it. I did not find my singing voice through deep contemplation or thinking about my brand. I opened up my mouth, and I sung.

I hit some bad notes, and I was corrected. At times, you could hear the nervousness I felt all throughout my vocal chords. At times, I took the safe route and sung from the most comfortable places within my range. But I would have never been able to truly hear my voice – its strengths, growing edges, tone, quality, and range – if I only sat there thinking about what my voice SHOULD sound like.

So, when I think about my growth as a writer / blogger, I’ve reasoned through the following things: I am a deep appreciator of critical thought & academic tradition (I will use a citation in a Facebook status if you let me…). I am also a #CarefreeBlackgirl who studied Theater and Integrative Arts. I was raised in a charismatic faith tradition (and there are certain points during my writing where I WISH somebody would pull out a Hammond B3 organ so I can ‘write it how I feel it’). I started off ’bout this writing life as a poet and spoken word artist, went into journalism, and am finding the mix between the two through blogging. I studied sociolinguistics briefly and refuse to privilege Standard American English forms over African American Vernacular English dialects on the site or in this space. All in all, my ever-elusive writing voice is a mash-up. It only makes sense when I USE it.