Now booking 2017 Haven Writing Retreats!
Every year at this time, I give my Haven Blog over to the alums of my Haven Writing Retreats to show the support that writers need to have for one another, to give myself the sacred dormancy of winter to work on my own book projects, as well as to help parse a theme that burns bright inside me.
This year that theme is Voice.
I use the phrase Find Your Voice often, and people often say to me that they have finally found their Voice (I especially love when that happens at Haven!)…but what does it really mean? If we find our voice, does that mean that we have been voiceless? Does it mean that we didn’t know we had one in the first place? And if so, where did we learn such a destructive myth? Were we told from a very young age that we should be seen but not heard, or that we shouldn’t draw attention to ourselves, or act like a show off? Or that we should only speak when we were spoken to? When we expressed ourselves in a way that didn’t fit the mold, were we punished? Were our mouths washed out with soap…maybe even just for saying the word “no?” or “why?” Maybe we endured verbal or physical abuse over our words from the very beginning and so we learned to keep them inside of us and maybe they have never felt safe in the world ever since. Maybe we’ve learned how “to be a parrot just to cite a silly rule,” in the words of the boy who wouldn’t grow up. Maybe our words were considered inconvenient for the people around us, or even dangerous, and they deemed us their enemy, making it their full focus to destroy our words and the integrity around them. The reasons why we might feel voiceless are endless. What I hear over and over again is this: “Even if I did have a voice, someone else already said what I have to say, or said it better. Who am I to think my voice is unique, or even matters in the first place?”
To this I say: Who are you not to? Because the truth is that it’s actually not possible for anyone to have your voice, even if they try. At Haven Writing Retreats, we work off of the same prompts in our morning classes, and we all get to see the living proof of this fact: no one can write like you can. Your job is to dig deeply with raw realness, and say what you truly have to say in the way that only you can say it. And here’s how to know if you are in that confluence of pure truth and intention: it’s easy. It’s flowing almost effortlessly. You are not in the way of it. It is as natural as it can be for you to be exactly who you are from thought to the form that is self-expression. And as I’ve said many times: ultimately it’s not about the words at all. It’s about what’s behind them, what’s between them, and what’s left in their wake.
So for the next few weeks, I will be posting essays by Haven Writing Retreat alums on this theme and you will see their minds wander in this wondering of just what it means to Find Your Voice. And set it free.
Please enjoy and please consider opening to the fact that YOU DO have a voice, and it is your own. Nobody can take that away from you. Whether in your writing, speaking, thinking, feeling. And it is quite possibly simply waiting for you to give yourself permission to let it finally out. Or as my college professor used to say, “Stop clearing your throat…and speak.”
p.s. As a special Valentine’s Day gift to yourself, listen to the New York Times and WBUR Modern Love Podcast series! It is full of stories of love, its messiness and sometimes resolve, its bravery and always-teachings. Recently, I got to hear my own writing voice spoken and intuited by the talented and powerful actress, Alysia Reiner, who absolutely nailed my essay, Those Aren’t Fighting Words, Dear– the short version of my New York Times best-selling memoir, This Is Not The Story You Think It Is, and the #2 ranked Modern Love essay in the history of the column. It has been reproduced in print all over the world...and now, thanks to Alysia and the Modern Love Podcast…it has an actual voice. Deep bows of gratitude.
Haven Writing Retreats 2017 Schedule
February 22-26 (full with wait list)