When you are a child, it is ordinary to say, “I want to be like ____ when I grow up.”
We watch, we imitate, and we learn by being around folks who inspire us the most. It’s the tools of how we figure out who we most want to be. Though usually our first ideas have something to do with being a fireman or a police officer or wonder woman. I always wanted to be a woman who delivers the mail, though you see how that turned out.
On the first day of our sessions with Richard Lischer, he said the first steps to becoming a good writer are admiration and imitation. And for this reason, we were asked to bring to class a selection of a poem or story that was particularly moving to us and our writing style. Words like “all I wanted was to be born with a good set of lungs” or “it is like touching a dented cup” flowed around the room and we all considered the ways in which our writing could be as the prose of those we liked the best. The morning of these reading brewed over with delights of ear all around.
In our everyday lives, we’ve all read a book or seen a performance or heard a speech when the person who is speaking sounds exactly like someone else we know. It’s familiar, but maybe too familiar. So in the end, while useful as a learning tool, imitation, it doesn’t provide our world with anything new. We don’t see God in any fresh wind of the Spirit sort of ways.
There comes a time when art must come from within and rest upon individual voice. Who am I? Who are you? And how through what I say, can you tell us a part?
One of the themes that has run throughout several of my conversations, especially with the other female pastors at the Insitute this week has been of how much women struggle with voice.
In a culture when so much is expected of us: wife, mother, professional, writer, friend, you name it, we are much more likely among our male colleagues to shrink back when it comes to letting our voice shine through. We take associate positions when we really want to preach. We say “ok” to youth trips for back to back weeks, even if this means neglecting our children. We don’t dare voice our ambition or dreams for fruitful work because we fear it might hurt someone’s feelings. I could be oversimplifying, I realize, but there’s something to this voice thing that we should pay attention to.
I speculate this problem occurs because we don’t want to come across as the “over powering” or “bitchy” females. We are so thankful to be where we are, that we dare not ask for more. Or, simply we just don’t know what our voice is because we’re afraid of what we might have to do with it, if it was finally heard. And, as the church, we are left without voices, lots of voices that we need to hear the most.
But this week, I’ve been learning that my writing (and my preaching for that matter) will not soar to the heavens as it could, if I don’t continually keep finding and hanging onto what makes me uniquely me. If I don’t recognize my voice and use it, God doesn’t have even a first draft to work with.
So, what’s holding you back? Speak! Write! Be!
When I grow up, I want to be a writer. How about you?