Look Who’s Talking (Day #33)

On Thursday, Kristen of Motherese wrote a thought-provoking post about targeted speech – how we speak differently to different people. We all do it. We change our accents, our tones, our intonations. Our words, even. We change ourselves to match the people around us. To make them more comfortable. To make ourselves more comfortable.

This post got me thinking about the difference between speech and voice. As Kristen points out, we change the former all the time, adapting our manner or style of speaking to fit our audience. But what about the latter?

Writers talk a lot about “voice,” a shorthand way to refer to perspective or point of view. We, as writers, have voices. So do our characters.

A couple of weeks ago, I told you that I ruined a perfectly productive day when I abandoned my characters voices for my own. At the time, I thought it was an easy fix – a simple case of voice confusion that would be remedied by my awareness of it.  I just needed to remember to turn my blogging voice off when I sat down to write. Right?

Not that simple.

Here’s what I’ve discovered:  my blogging voice isn’t something I just put on when it’s blog time. Turns out that what you’re hearing right now, this voice, with all its insecurities and uncertainties, is my voice. Unadulterated.

This was a startling and somewhat disconcerting discovery.

But why? you ask. Blogs are supposed to be honest and real and raw.

Yes. Blogs are supposed to be honest and real and raw. I intended for this particular blog to be honest and real and raw. But the person who writes this blog sounds like a mommy. The person who writes this blog writes from a mommy’s perspective.  She has a mommy’s point of view.  So this voice, it couldn’t possibly be my real voice.

Except that it is.

On one level – a personal level – this is reassuring, because it means that I am adapting quite well to what my friend B called (with his tongue firmly lodged in his cheek) “my new persona.” I have found my footing in this new world. I am not just acting as if.  It also means that this blog is exactly what I wanted it to be – a place where I would force myself to be honest and real and raw.

But on another level – a professional level – this is a problem. Okay, so maybe “problem” is a bit of an overstatement, but it’s an issue. Because I am writing a teen novel. With teen characters. Teen voices. And while I wasn’t a teenager six weeks ago, six weeks ago I could simply summon my teenage self whenever I needed to find these voices because, really, my teenage self wasn’t all that different from my pre-baby-twenty-something self.  In a lot of ways, her voice was still my voice.  Which made it easy.

It’s harder now.

My voice has changed.  Noticeably.  Irrevocably.  I sound different.  To myself.  To Husband.  To friends.  I sound different because I am different.  Noticeably.  Irrevocably.

This shouldn’t affect my writing, but it does.  Part of me wonders if this makes me less of a writer.  After all, shouldn’t I be able to set myself aside when I write?

The answer, of course, is yes.  And the truth is, I can.  But the other truth is that this voice I’ve found, the voice you’re hearing right now,  it fits pretty snug.  Like I was made to wear it.

(Have you found that your voice has changed since become a wife/mom/fill-in-the-blank?  Do you adapt your speech to fit different your audience?  Do you love Motherese as much as I do?)


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