I recently attended a writing seminar conducted by Philip Yancey. Yes, the Philip Yancey who wrote books like "Where is God when It Hurts?" and "Prayer - Does it Make Any Difference?". His style of writing is different from your typical Christian writer. There are no catchy punchy short sentences like the books by Max Lucado. He does not write lengthy sentences filled with scriptures, theological references and ideology. Rather, he writes from a very realistic viewpoint and dissects the issue as a journalist would because that was his profession before he became a full time writer. He writes not because he's an expert on the topic but rather, his "voice" is of one who asks questions that everyone in the pew is thinking but dare not ask.
He explained that he wrote "Prayer-Does it Make any Difference?" not because he spends 4 hours a day on his knees praying but rather that this is one of his weakest areas in his walk of faith. He said that his purpose for writing each book is for himself. It's a self discovery process where as he writes, he researches the issue until he learns something. He loves interviewing people and finding out their thoughts on the topic. Then he will try to put it all together and make sense of it. However, for his book on prayer, the views of his interviewees were so diverse, he felt that it was better to leave the individuals' thoughts as side-bars in order not to lose the gist of it. It worked because his readers felt a strong connection to the book. They had the "a-ha" moment in that when they read a story or two that touched them about prayer, it made them feel less alone and less inadequate. They felt that they were understood by someone else in this big crazy world.
What stuck with me for days since this writing seminar is when Philip said, "The success to writing comes when you find your voice, your genuine voice of who you really are". He already shared what his "voice" was. One of the attendees shared that she wrote a book on singlehood. So, Philip said, "That's your voice. Just make sure you don't get married until your book sales proceeds reach its first million! Otherwise, you would have lost your voice and would no longer be genuine." Others stood up to share their voices. "I'm a mother coping with a child of special needs." "I'm a manager who wants to improve the corporate structure and morale that I work in." "I'm a happy-go-lucky young adult struggling to keep a deep dark secret hidden." "I'm a pastor who wants to stir the church up into a strong spiritual movement." The list goes on.
I felt inadequate. A lot of the attendees have published books. A lot of them have found their voices. I wanted to shout out, "Yes, I know what my voice is!" but I couldn't. The truth is I don't know what my voice is. Am I supposed to be a working mother who juggles between her role of a corporate employee and loving Mummy? Or am I a faithful and supportive wife to my husband? At one point of time, I had thought my voice was that of one dealing with secondary infertility. However, the recent change of events have taken away that voice but there are no regrets. I'm all too glad to carry this miracle baby inside me.
Am I genuine to myself when I say I'm the voice of a modern Christian woman who struggles to make sense of it all? Is that voice too common? Is it too cliché? I don’t have the answer yet and yes, it does keep me up on certain nights. Amazing, isn't it, that such a thought can nag at you?
Maybe my voice is that of a Christian woman who writes about finding her voice? What do you think? Could that work?