This past weekend I did something rather terrifying. No, I didn’t go bungee jumping … or cage diving with sharks. Not the ‘Tower of Terror’ at Gold Reef City, either. No, definitely not sky diving. Okay, these guesses aren’t leading anywhere, so let me just tell you. This weekend I ran a Writing Workshop for 13 people. Was that a slight huff I heard? Not terrifying at all, you say?
Perhaps not, but if you consider that public speaking makes my mouth go dry, my voice squeaky and my knees weak, and that I’m so disorganised I sometimes can’t even find my own toothbrush, organising and teaching this workshop was quite a step forward for me. I’m grateful to the ministry MAI for giving me the chance, and to my wonderful partner in crime, Mandy Hackland, who prayed us through it and made up for my deficiencies. Mostly, I’m grateful to God, who I sensed going ahead and preparing the way.
And then there were the participants. If somebody had filled an entire stadium with writers and told me to handpick a baker’s dozen to join us this weekend, I would have chosen this exact creative, engaged and interesting group of people.
Let me tell you why.
One of my favourite things we did this weekend was an analysis of writing ‘voices’ and a discussion on how important it is it find your voice—your own unique way of expressing yourself—as a writer. We read extracts from a variety of writers. There was, “You have a traitor in your midst, Aslan”, and “I do not like them, Sam-I-am. I do not like green eggs and ham”, with many more marvellous voices between.
But nothing quite compared to listening to the participants reading some of their own work on Saturday evening, their unique voices ringing out clear and true. There were raw, emotive poems; children’s books; and punchy stories written for writing challenges. There was a personal account from childhood and also one from adulthood—a woman’s joy at remembering the love-imbued letters from a mother long since gone. There were some risqué limericks and laughter-filled verses. That night we joined together to celebrate the joy of words and the uniqueness of our voices, and gave each other the courage to express ourselves as truthfully as we could.
Anne Lamott once said, “The truth of your experience can only come through in your own voice. If it is wrapped in someone else’s voice, we readers will feel suspicious, as if you are dressed up in someone else’s clothes.”
Saturday night I learnt how beautiful it looks to see people comfortable in their own ‘clothes’, and it struck me afresh that this is what God wants—writers and story-tellers, poets and artists, film-makers, musicians and photographers who will embrace their uniqueness and create in as truthful and courageous a way as they possibly can.
Today I invite you to consider your own creative ‘voice’ and to fearlessly enrich our world with it. If that feels a little terrifying to you, believe me I can relate. But as running the workshop taught me, we learn far more outside our comfort zones and it’s surprising just what we’re able to do once we take that first leap.
Image courtesy of Pixomar at FreeDigitalPhotos.net