I still remember highschool. Boy do I ever remember it. I was not, at the time, what you might call a social butterfly. I was more of a social slug, hiding under my little rock, shunning all human contact, and then wondering why no one liked me.
My highschool was kind of weird too. In my highschool everyone was required to be in the school choir. Everyone.
It wasn’t a problem for me. To tell you the truth, I rather enjoyed it at time. We sang some highfalutin classical-type stuff, but we also got to sing fun and silly songs like, “The Sow Took the Measles and She Died in the Spring.” (This is totally a real thing, and it is AWESOME.)
Every year we had to put on a concert some time in the spring. Which in its way was pretty cool, because we were good. We had the baddest choir teacher around, this guy named Mr. Woods who was kind of mutant cross between Mr. Rogers and a drill sergeant. Best teacher ever.
Only one year there was a snag. One of the songs we were singing, one of the silly ones mind you, required a solo.
Mr. Woods asked for volunteers. My hand did not shoot up. No one’s did. Because, you know, volunteers. It just sounds wrong. So Mr. Woods picked someone. This kid stood up and croaked out something that sounded like it came out of frog with laryngitis. Okay, you know what, actually it wasn’t that bad. But it was…boring. I mean we’re talking about a nonsense song here. It’s not supposed to be technically perfect. It’s supposed to be fun.
So when Mr. Woods asked if anyone else wanted to try, I stood up and belted out the song in the weirdest voice I could conjure. I made a complete fool out of myself, and I had a great time doing it.
To make a long story short, I got the part.
So what does any of this have to do with writing? Who says it does? Can’t I just share a pointless highschool anecdote and leave it at that? No? Okay, then: the point.
We writers like to talk a lot about this thing called “voice.” It’s the thing that makes us unique as a writer, sets us apart from everyone else. But there’s not a lot of clear advice on how to find it.
Of course part of the answer is practice practice practice. Writers write. Get your butt in that chair and…well you know the drill.
But I think part of the problem some writers have in finding their voice is the same problem the first kid who got up to sing had. Fear. Because you just know he was standing up there thinking, “I don’t want to make a fool out of myself with this thing. People might laugh at me.”
People might laugh at you? It’s a silly song dude. They’re supposed to laugh. If they don’t laugh, you fail.
Writing is the same way. You’ve got to let go of your self-consciousness and belt out what you’ve got to say at the top of your lungs. No, it’s not going to be perfect. The practice thing still applies. But if you want to make it in this world of writing you’re going to have to lay it all on the line.
Want to know why Chuck Wendig is so popular? It’s not because He’s saying things no one has ever heard before in the history of the world. But he says them in a way that is purely his and his alone. It’s fearless and over the top, and people love it.
I’m not saying you need to be another Chuck Wendig. I’m saying you need to be yourself. Clichéd? Yup, totally. And for very good reason.
Own your writing. Carve out your own little niche and make it yours. Bean it over the head with a crowbar and drag it home with you.
Because that’s what it take to succeed. In singing, in writing, in life.