I was drawn to writing at a very early age, because I felt compelled to express things going on inside me. And around me.
Ideas, voices and emotions bubbled inside like molten rock and needed an outlet, a release valve.
Once placed on paper, once out of me, I felt better.
In time, though, this was no longer enough. I needed more than merely writing could offer.
I began experimenting within the Arts. I was an artist, primarily charcoals. I was a musician and songwriter. I worked in video production for a time. I wrote (or at least tried to write) fiction, essays, poetry, screenplays and avant-garde literary works.
But these efforts proved to be lacking too.
That’s when I poured myself into the craft of writing. I wrote a lot. All styles. All genres. I read a lot. All styles. All genres. I talked to other writers.
There came a time when craft was no longer enough. I needed more than the mastery of expression could offer.
I needed a voice.
Voice is a powerful notion in the literary and performing arts.
Writers, singers and actors call it voice. Musicians call it sound. Painters and designers call it style.
It can be manufactured, crafted or pure.
Some say you find it. Others say you create it. And others say it’s inherent within.
However, like our fingerprint, our voice distinguishes us in a look-alike, sound-alike world. It’s our signature.
I believe our voice is an ensemble. Like notes in a musical score, it is a collection of parts within us combined with parts we collect through external influences.
Which means our voice can’t be found inside or outside us. It can only be cultivated through the collecting and connecting of many independent things.
Which also means, one’s voice evolves and changes over time, although the root stays the same.
And that’s just where I wanted to go today, to our voice’s root note.
I recently emailed a friend about the development of his voice, as a writer. I asked him whether he had ever written something so raw, so vulnerable, so personal that it surprised him and made him want to hide it.
That’s the root voice. Your root voice is you, without any inhibitions, fear, or doubt. It is achieved, not through control, but through letting go.
Yet, it’s not enough. Like a single note played, it needs harmony and rhythm.
That’s just it. At its best, our root voice lies underneath a harmony of influences we’ve collected and connected in time. And what makes an artist’s voice beautiful is its texture. Its complexities. Its richness. Its rawness. And its vulnerability.
In her book, Forest for the Trees, Betsy Lerner writes that writers are afraid. We’re afraid because we are compelled to tell. And with telling comes accusations of exposing others. But even more comes the fear of exposing ourselves to our families.
Which brings me back to where I started.
The mere act of writing is no longer enough. Craft isn’t enough. And even my voice, as important as it once was, is not enough. I now write for human connection.
I write to expose myself for who I really am—an artist wandering and wondering creative landscapes in search of beauty among the clutter and chaos of life. And my hope is that in revealing my voice, root and all, I can inspire you to do the same for someone else.
From May 2012 to July 2013, I wrote a weekly series of intimate essays for writers and artists seeking a deeper connection with their identity and place as modern creatives. I called this series Root Notes. This was an essay in that series. It was originally published on May 5, 2013.