When I turn off the garbage disposal, I hear the sound of leaves shaking outside the window screens. Branches bounce, not in the wind, but with the force of something living. I lift my eyes and catch sight of a tiny trapeze artist swinging and jumping and somehow landing and balancing on the skinniest twig. He speaks the language of nibbles, chittering always with acorn-adorned paws close to his mouth. Everywhere he goes he is listening for fruit of the forest to fall, breathing in aroma of the woods, looking for the castaway seed to store up in his belly and his hollowed out stumps.

We writers are like this, always listening, looking for something to store away. We are gatherers, stockpilers. And later we share the bounty.

I drive down the street with my house in sight. One of the neighborhood squirrels darts across and forgets to look both ways. Lucky him, I’m a fool for animals. I slow and give him enough lag to get all the way across. But then he hears my motor and feels the rumble of my tires on pavement. He goes rigid for a second and then darts back and forth, not sure where to go. I push hard on the brakes and wait for him to make up his mind.

Writers big and small talk a lot about finding your voice. It’s this illusive thing that rattles in branches, peeks up from under a pile of leaves, whisks us away like the smell of campfire on the breeze. We chase it like we’ve got to have it in our hands before we hunker down and write. And sometimes we chase ourselves into the middle of the road.

I, too, have found myself darting side to side in a piece of writing, wondering whether the words in front of me fit my blog, my voice. When we go looking for our own voice instead of gathering story, we start to skitter this way and that, spooked by every sound and sensation, stopping short when we should be moving our pencils and tapping the keys and saying something. We wind up in the middle of the road wondering where to go, and we just about join the tread on tires.

We all have a voice. We don’t have to chase it to find it. If you want to know what yours sounds like, just open up and say something right from the beauty of your natural habitat. Sometimes you may sound like a poet, other times a mentor, at work maybe an expert at tax law or technology.

Your voice is a hearty compost of your passions, your experience, your environment, your message, your style, your lexicon of choice. It’s all there, every high note and undertone. Now, you just have to exercise it.

To hear the sound of your voice, pick up a pen and notebook. Open the closet or box of memorabilia bursting with the things you treasure…the things you hoard, even. You know…those accidental collages. And do what Amber Haines says, “Write what you see with your brave eyes, the objects your grandmother passed down to only you, the way you felt when all the clocks in the living room clicked at different times, that beeswax smell in the felt of your daddy’s fiddle case, the strings on the smooth bow.”

Write what’s under your nose. Write what you think, what you feel, what you see, smell, hear, taste, touch. Write it all with the words you use in love letters, in heart-to-hearts with bosom friends, the kinds of phrases you underline in your favorite books. Your combination of tone and meaning and passion makes a sound all its own.

It isn’t so complicated. Write about the things you love using the language you love…and out comes your voice flying high as that little acrobat swinging strong from branch to branch.

{What are your thoughts on the importance of finding or defining your writing voice? Have you ever been intimidated or closed-in thinking you need to find a signature sound and never stray? How does it feel to acknowledge that you already have a voice and that it may not sound the same in all times and places?}

This is Day 14 of my series 31 Days ~ Preserve Your Story, linking up with The Nester’s annual 31 Days of Change.

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