Is it just me, or does it seem like we are living in one of the noisiest spaces in time? Sometimes, I wonder what things were like back before radio or TV. Many people I know, including members of my own family, enjoy the background noise. I'll walk into houses where the TV is on, but nobody is watching it, or hop into a car where the radio is on, but someone insists on carrying on a conversation. On top of that noise, we also have the noise of social media and internet platforms. If I want to see what methods other authors are using to sell their books, I might find myself quickly buried under a mountain of information to sort through. Some of it is good, some of it is useless, and some of it sounds good, but when put into application, is deemed useless.
In short, there is a lot of noise. This can make it difficult for one to find their voice. You might enjoy a children's book without sing-song rhymes, but after reading your friend's manuscript, you feel like yours might be received as "less than" on the market if you can't step up your rhyming game. Or, you enjoy writing about turtles, but find that the current market is saturated with turtle stories, so you start to wonder if your book will even matter.
Want to know how to sift through the noise and find your voice? Ask yourself these three questions:
- What Upsets Me?
Most of us don't want to face our fears or explore the areas that bring us pain, but these are often the areas which provide the most inspiration. Were you upset as a child because you couldn't find someone in a book who looked like you? Is there a specific topic that you see people avoiding yet when you bring it up all your peers want more?
There are things which bother us that do not bother others. I know authors who are very passionate about certain topics that don't stir anything inside of me. I believe God implants different triggers within each of our hearts so everyone can have a chance to help someone else. I have known authors who have had horrible marriage experiences and they want to highlight the red flags they ignored so others do not fall into the same relationship woes that plagued them. Then, I have met authors who had amazing relationships, not perfect, but a safe place where they were loved and cherished. Likewise, they wanted to share the lessons they learned. Both sides of the relationship coin are necessary. Never think what bothers you is less important because you cannot find anyone in your immediate circle who is also bothered. Your calling may be amongst others.
- What Do I Enjoy?
I can write nonfiction, but I LOVE fiction. Creating characters and worlds is a lot of work, but stringing along a series of events is so much fun. Unfortunately, I have spent most of the beginning of my writing career in comparison. I thought that I needed to write like a certain author if I wanted to be successful in a certain genre.
Write what you enjoy. I don't mean that you should disregard all feedback and carry on, but you should learn to protect yourself against others' opinions. I learned this when I joined a writer's critique group. I had to identify which writers would provide constructive feedback to improve my story and which writers were providing their opinion. I also had to be careful not to think so highly of someone's good feedback that I compromised my own writing style.
- What Distracts Me?
I love watching TV shows and movies with my family, or finding a good book to read. However, there are times when I need to sit outside on my back porch with no agenda and no background noise. When everything is quiet, I can start sorting through the thoughts within my mind and find clarity. Everyone is not the same, but everyone, if they are honest, has some kind of distraction.
Sometimes, the distraction comes as helping someone else. I have had weeks where I told myself, “I’m silencing my calls and focusing.” Then, for whatever reason, I find myself volunteering at my kids’ school, a church event, or helping an author by reading over their draft. I am not saying that we shouldn’t help people, but I have come to realize that prioritizing everyone else’s needs over my own will cause me to lose myself faster than anything else in life. It’s okay to put ourselves on the calendar and keep the appointment. We wouldn’t flake on anyone else, so why do we make it okay to flake on ourselves?
Finding our voice is more than just sifting through the noise and having something to say. There is a unique voice that God has placed in each one of us. We each have our own passions and things that drive us. When we disregard our voice and start to mimic others or try to copy them, we’ll soon find ourselves adding to the noise, and consistent noise over an extended period often leads to misery.