All the advice I've ever been given as a writer is that I need to "find my voice." That if I "find my voice," all of a sudden everything will start to snap into place—boom, boom, boom—as if all the pieces of this do-it-yourself creative life I'm building will find one another, and assembly will no longer be required.
Perhaps it's the power of repetition, but this advice has begun to ring hollow for me the last couple years. It once was said to me, in a discussion about my writer's voice, that a reader should be able to pick up anything I write and instantly tell who wrote it with little or no ambiguity. In that conversation, I flashed on a memory.
My wayward youth was spent not in bars or fraternity parties but in Bible studies and prayer groups. The bars and fraternity parties came later. But at eighteen, I was obsessed with locating myself squarely in a place known as "God's will." What was God's will for my life? What did He want me to be doing at this moment? At this? At the next? Where was I being led, and how? The question of God's will and my location in relationship to it perfectly overlaid the map of my own preexisting self-doubt: The quicksand, booby traps, and detours led me to the same valleys in which my mind already was prone to getting lost.
What I mean to say is that "God's will" was a moving target. At the top of a set of stairs on my college campus that led in two directions, I found myself frozen, wondering if the Lord wanted me to go right or left—never mind the fact that the two sets of stairs met again at the bottom. What if I went left when God was pointing right? Could I go deep enough into myself to find the answer? Could I be so constantly in tune with the Holy Spirit that I knew without knowing where I was being led?
These conversations about voice feel like that to me. If only I was confident enough as a writer, the right words, the best words, would come. And when the right words don't come, it must mean I'm blocked somewhere. It must mean I'm not plunging deep enough into my own soul to get at the real things, because where the real things are, there are the words.
I'm starting to wonder if the admonition to "find your voice"—always given with the best of intention—is the tool of self-doubt. Maybe the way to find your voice is to use it—or to choose, consciously, not to when that choice is the right one. Maybe the way to write something true and good is to stop trying so hard.
Hence the redesigned website. Welcome.