The Authentic Voice

I just started reading a book on wabi sabi and how writers can use it to uncover authenticity and truth and make their writing better. I'll review this book here later, when I'm finished with it. This idea of an authentic voice appeals to me. I see the authentic voice, as it relates to writing as being the one voice that speaks harmony and truth about the topic you're writing about. It doesn't have to polished or perfect to the standards of the English language, but rather it should be a reflection of yourself and how you see the topic. You want to connect to your readers on a deep intrinsic level and want them to walk away with the feeling that they learned something about themselves, the world or you. Whew, what a mouthful, eh?

So as you write, for yourself or others, you begin to share your perspective with others. The world you display on the paper unfolds and through it we get a glimpse of what you see and how you view the world. The choices we make as to which word we put on paper, the cadence of each sentence speaks to others as if we were reciting the words with our mouths. We speak with grammar and punctuation. Practicing how you speak in writing can help you develop your authentic writing voice. From what I've read and learned, that there's no one right way to become a voice.The authentic voice takes awhile to find and varies depending on what you're writing about. Here's some suggestions that I've found useful to help me develop my own personal writing voice.

  1. Cater your writing style to match the intended audience. You wouldn't speak to your boss and your mother the same way, would you? Changing what words you choose to use in your writing, whether personal or creative can help you uncover and develop your writing voice by matching it to the audience.
  2. Practice what you speak. Try writing as if you were talking to someone else. How would that sound on paper? Try speaking to another person as if you were happy, sad or mad at them and see how different the passages are.
  3. Write as if you were the character. Sometimes helping to develop an authentic voice means writing as if you were that person. Step into your character's shoes. What words do they prefer using? Speaking as if you were that character teaches you how to use voice as if you were that character and in doing so, it helps you uncover the nuances that make your own voice special.
  4. Try and examine the topic you're writing about from multiple perspectives and share the reason you feel the way you do. Sometimes when you explain the other side, you're able to view and relate to your own musings more truthfully.

I know that I'm still working on my own writing voice. I'm still searching for the right combination of words, examples and pictures that match what I want to say in my articles, stories and daily communicatives. But as I look to wabi sabi, I know that the result unfolds in the process, and not in the destination. That only time shall help me and my prose grow stronger and allow others to get a deeper insight into who I am as a writer and what I am trying to say through writing. How do you develop your writing voice? Feel free to post your suggestions in the comments of this article.

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Wabi Sabi: A Personal View

married for 37 years; living in Australia for 34 years; a Baha'i for 46 years; a teacher for 30 years. Five years ago in 2001 I came across Wabi Sabi in a radio program and wrote the following:

The Japanese philosophy of Wabi Sabi, which the West comes closest to in the writings of Henry David Thoreau, places the accent in artistic expression, in its aesthetic philosophy, on the rustic, the raw, the rough, on the imperfect, the impermanent, the incomplete, on nothingness, emptiness, detachment. Since much of my poetry contains accents similar to the tone and texture, meaning and feeling, conveyed by these words; since I have long felt a certain identity with the writings of Henry David Thoreau, that pioneer of yesteryear who also wrote extensively about his everyday experience in the bush, in the rustic places where he lived by himself; since the Writings of the Baha'i Faith, and of Baha'u'llah in particular, also dwell on that same mystical quality of nothingness and emptiness, of detachment and the wilderness of remoteness: this particular Japanese philosophy of Wabi Sabi has a peculiar relevance to my own writings. -Ron Price with thanks to "The Comfort Zone," ABC Radio National, 3 March 2001, 9:00-10:00 am.

Only recently has it been confirmed
that this galaxy has a billion planets,1
only just the other day while
the Arc Project was being completed,
filling out our world with light,
with fragrances of mercy wafted
as they are over all created things,
over that myriad of planets.
And here, in these words,
I shed a unique light on the lives
of men and women of four epochs,
these protean beings who strike
a thousand postures in their lives
and change their spots swifter
than the twinkling of an eye.2

1 Interview with an astronomer at the American Association for the Advancement of Science(AAAS) on "The Science Show," ABC Radio National, 12:10-1:00 pm, 3 March 2001.
2 Robert Louis Stevenson, "Modern History Sourcebook: Samuel Pepys," 1886. He discusses the chameleon nature of human beings in his introduction.

Ron Price
3 March 2001

Koren, voice

I happened upon Koren's book back in the late 90s and loved it. I had long had that esthetic so reading the book was a wonderful 'yes!' experience. It's been on my shelves for a while now, and is always well worth rereading. It's so easy to get sucked into the maelstrom that is 'perfection' and a reminder that our lives don't have to be perfect to be beautiful is just what is needed sometimes.

Your comments on 'authentic voice' are interesting. I don't fully agree that we must 'practice' to achieve an authentic voice, rather, I believe that our voice emerges over time if we're willing to stay true to the stories, etc., that we wish to tell.

I can see using 'practice' for such a thing if it means we pay attention to what feels most authentic as we're writing. Too often, I believe, writers let the noise of the intellect drown out the quiet voices of those parts of us that are most true and real.

Thanks for the post and the reminder about Koren's book. Time to pull it off the shelves once again.

Hmmm.. Interesting...

While I appreciate the sentiment with which this article has been written, I have to respectfully disagree with some of the outputs...

I have been struggling internally for quite some time to develop my own authentic voice (both in person and on paper) and one of the primary reasons that it has been a struggle is due to the fact that I have, for many years, adhered to point #1 (and to a lesser extent #3)

"You wouldn't speak to your boss and your mother the same way, would you?"

Well.. I have finally come to the realisation that, YES, I would (or should).. why would you not if you were being truly authentic? I have regularly managed to completely stump my boss by answering his questions (often probing and almost always designed to get a particular answer) in *exactly* the same way I would answer my mother!!

I firmly believe that if you truly want to be authentic in the fundamental sense of the word, then you need to behave, write, and talk with exactly the same attitude and demeanour in every aspect of your life..

If the people at the other end of the discourse end up thinking less of you, then I have to accept that they don't truly deserve to join me on the journey that is my life.