When My Voice Feels Simple

When it comes to writing, there seems to be a big, big pond of words and voices, and I sometimes find myself wanting to just stand on the shoreline. I don’t always know how to categorize myself. While I hit the occasional wit, I don’t always feel funny. I’m not doing crazy things with my life these days. I don’t have an angle or a soapbox. I don’t carry a heavy thought of theology on my shoulders like a backpack of knowledge and insight. I’m not crazy opinionated and in some things (*cough* most things), I’m still undecided.

I traveled to Africa years ago, before it was the in-thing to live blog it. Years ago, my home had an open door policy and we kept company with homeless and middle-class Americans, but it was before books were being written and I didn’t document any of it with tweets or status updates. When these things come up in the internet world these days, I feel like my voice is late to the party, or irrelevant now. I don’t know how to talk about it.

These days, I’m a single mom and a freelancer, and my days pretty much look all the same. I wake up at the same time, prepare school snacks, volunteer as a room parent, and I end my days reading Harry Potter or watching Mindy Kaling win America’s hearts.

In all this work of working on my book proposal with my agent, I have realized one thing. My voice doesn’t have a special, designated market, per se. I don’t appeal to a certain type, belief, theology, ideal. I feel like I bleed everywhere when I’m cut and I couldn’t tell you for certain which way it’s supposed to go.

When the Twitter and positioning wars begin, and writers and readers alike take up arms in theological dissent, I just close my laptop. When it comes to hot topics, I don’t know how to say what I believe without whipping out my sharp-tongue and lancing a few people, and last I was told, I’m supposed to keep my tongue under control because it’s steering my ship. So I just tell that baby to hush and sink deeper into the waters of Grace because I don’t know. I hash out my beliefs in small living rooms and sometimes with a beer in one hand, because I want to see faces and hear voices when we disagree.

But I love words. I have loved words since I was five years old and I realized I could take my thoughts into my fingers and scribble them out in forms and rhymes. I waxed poetic about Somalia and death, and poetry and fiction became the ocean I steered my ship through. The Psalms on tape put me to sleep at night, and I grew up repeating the entire first chapter of David’s poetry in a slow and steady cadence. Words have always been my companion. When I can’t say things with my mouth, I write them with ink. When I feel cornered, my words because my weapons and I dangerously cut close to the heart.

neruda

My story is my story, and my voice is my voice, but sometimes at night, when the world is quiet and the house creaks with settling, my voice becomes nothing but a breath into the darkness. How do I keep my voice when it seems I cannot find my niche, or rather, maybe I do not want to carve out a niche because I want to spill and sink with words, in every which way.

I live a mostly quiet life — keeping at work, raising my daughter, telling my story, learning through relationships that there are no easy answers, theology is complicated and Jesus is everything. I live a routine life — paying the bills, kissing and shaping the life of a five-year-old girl, investing in community and sleeping under feathered blankets at night.

I am learning how to love, but I screw it up a lot. 

Words are not my launch pad to stardom. Words are my stars and in them I dive because without them, I’m just silence under these skies. Words are the light that breaks through my skin. They’re how I find the Gospel again, and I use them to tell what I know and what I don’t, and to light tiny candles here and there. So if I don’t speak up, stand out, or if I steer clear, it’s because I’m not trying to make myself out to be someone I’m not these days. 

And well, honestly? That has to be ok right now.

Comments

  1. Wow! So well said. I’m going to read this again and then rub it into my chest and hopefully absorb it. Your post to me says, ‘You’re not alone.’ I sit on the cusp of this so often because as a musician, I haven’t yet figured out a way for my words and music to pay the bills. So then comes the miserable task of monetizing what I love and before I know it, I’m just thinking about trending and bottom lines. But that’s not where art lives. That’s not where truth lives. I want to make art that is grounded in truth. If I’m lucky perhaps my art will bring a steady income and if I’m really lucky (or perhaps un-lucky) it will bring fame. Thankfully the latter is a huge long shot. I’m not sure I’m ready for a huge platform and yet I have so much to say. So thanks for your encouragement dear friend. I will just say what I need to and what I feel called to and then let go of the rest.

    • Thank you JaimeLee. It’s amazing how when the bottom line gets involved, it’s harder to see truth clearly and what your real art is. This is a real struggle of mine. I always tell my friends that I love painting, music, etc, until I have to start doing it for money. I need to learn how to manage that muse better. :)

  2. Living a quiet life, doing all these new and popular things in an obscure way for light years ahead of social media- THIS is good, Andrea. I love these words of yours.

    There have been millions upon milions who live for Christ in ways that would humble us, and they did it without social media and blogs. The Bible and the commissioned ways of Gospel work, table stuff and intimate talks is not antiquated.

    • In so many ways, I desire obscurity. It seems like such a safer place and keeps all of my wild fears and obsessions at bay. I want to be a part of things that aren’t antiquated but are filled with the strength of history.

  3. It’s your love of words that’s the focus of your words. You are fun to read whether you are saying a lot or a little. Because your words sing. Your writing is just fun to read.

  4. Jill Gottenstrater says:

    Beautifully put. Love your writing, Andrea! Did you know that your writing inspires me? Yep, it does. Thank you!

    • Oh Jill, that is the NICEST thing ever. Thank you! What a gift to me this morning to know that even in my messy brokenness, I can still inspire someone else too! :)

  5. deborah says:

    “Words are the light that breaks through my skin.”
    Wow. I love reading your words. You were born to read,write, create and share! :-)

  6. Oh, kindred soul. Oh, sister. Oh, I understand this.

    I don’t know where my words are supposed to go, I don’t know who wants to read them. I’m not doing anything exciting enough to write about. But words have been a part of me since I can remember.

    But, Andrea, know this. Your voice is ANYTHING but irrelevant. Your voice is welcome, fresh, and encourages me in ways that I can’t even begin to explain. I’m so glad you’re listening to this calling and writing out these words for all of us.

    • Thank you friend. I want to keep my writing authentic, you know? I think people would notice if I started writing for a platform, with numbers in mind, or for popularity. I think that race would steal my voice so I’m very cautious to ever dip my toes in it. Thank you for your faithful friendship through all this blogging. Can’t even put in words how good it is to my writing heart. xoxo

  7. Jeannie says:

    Thank you. I stopped blogging a few years ago. When it felt like my words had to be punctuated with ad spaces, I stepped away from the keyboard. I still have so many words I want to write but I don’t only have one thing left to say. Maybe it’s because I grew up shopping the library like a grocery store and who would buy bread but not venture down the peanut butter aisle? I don’t know the name for your market, but I’m in it.

    • “punctuated with ad spaces”… Oh how I know this feeling. I can’t keep up with that. I want to keep writing clear, steady and with what’s true to my heart and soul. Everything else will feel forced and manufactured. Thank you thank you thank you for this comment today.

  8. Yes! It’s like you’ve written my heart, too. I am so scared to be pigeon-holed. I am scared of this dogma of “platform” (and that’s funny, because my background’s PR–I know the dance). But I long for the romantic days when writers could just write, just bleed on paper and be done. Now we have to play the publicist and smash ourselves into some recognizable, salable mold; we have to somehow scrounge around for demonstrable shreds of expertise, too.

    It’s exhausting.

    It’s hard when your book bares so much of your heart, but the real you wants to just curl up in a blanket with a cup of dark roast and leave your phone on vibrate. Writers are weird. We want to be heard and known but on our own terms. We want space to make sense of our world, but are so afraid that, if we show someone else, they’ll point out that (as CS Lewis likes to say) “we’ve got our sums wrong.”

    Art is hard….but thanks for making yours! You have a lyrical way about you. So refreshing.

    • Yes, precisely. We are the writers, publicists, PR managers, and most of the time, we play the role as critics of our work too. It’s encouraging to know it’s not just me figuring this balance and juggle out. Most of the time, I’m just putting it all down and walking away. Need to figure out how to write true and clear in the midst of so many voices. Thank you for your comment! (And this reminds me, I think I owe you an email!)

Speak Your Mind

*