Sunday, July 15, 2007

Learning to Hear Your Own Voice

Learning to Hear Your Own Voice

  • Have you ever wondered where your thoughts and words come from?
  • Do words that spill from your mouth belong to your parents, teachers, or mentors?
  • What would it sound like if you could find your own voice?
Although I'm getting better, there are times I wonder what my own voice sounds like. I'm not talking about the tone, pitch, or timbre. I'm talking about the meaning, the quality of thought, the value of experience. Sometimes I can't hear me unless someone else is listening. Often, words and sounds roll around in my head like marbles in a cardboard box. They clank together or make their way to separate corners. They don't connect into cohesive thoughts and phrases. The concepts and definitions don't gel. I don't know who I am or who I'm trying to be. But when I can bounce thoughts and words off someone else and hear them hang in the open air, suddenly all makes sense and I understand.
  • Who is the person in your life who helps you make sense of it all?
  • Maybe you have many. Choose one and describe a time when you felt heard and how that helped you recognize your own voice.
  • Take 30 minutes and show in the details of your writing what your experience was like.

"Words are the voice of the heart."

Teacher, Philosopher



When You Listen, I Hear Me Better

by Lissa Ann Forbes

Occasionally I choose to change names and minor details in my stories. I've taken a bit of literary license creating fictionalized truth. At times it is easier to find the essence of the story if I write it from a different perspective.

Knock, knock, knock.

She turns the knob on his apartment door and lets herself in.

“Hiya, Sam,” the voice from the other room calls. She noticed the jagged skyline etched by the Rocky Mountains as the sun set behind them through the sliding glass door.

She joins Bryan in his office, the computer screen bright. He sits—his cane propped again the desk.

Samantha opens her arms for their usual greeting. Bryan slowly grabs his cane and gets up so he can put his arms around her, then invites her to pull up a chair.

“Hey, I want to show you a couple things.” Sam always begins her visits this way. She’s always finding neat stories and video clips on the Internet—that’s her business after all—writing about the extraordinary ordinary people she meets. Her last story was about a West Point Cadet who celebrated his 90th birthday.

“You love to show me your finds, don’t you?” Bryan, an always willing audience, teased.

“Yep. It’s what I do.”

And what Bryan does best is brainstorm ideas for finding new business, connections, and places to speak or capture a story.

As they surfed, they found a group of writers Samantha should join since she hadn’t been in Scottsdale but six months, the SWA—Scottsdale Writer’s Alliance—120 other writer/journalists. A great networking opportunity. They exchanged thoughts about the group and what they found about speaking ops, then Bryan picked up the phone.

“What are you doing?” Sam queried.

“I’m calling this gal to see if there are any speaking slots left for the fall conference.”
Bryan got going with his usual questions and 15 minutes later had learned that there were several opportunities left for round table discussions, had sold the conference coordinator on his talk “How to eat for free 52 weeks a year,” and learned about the monthly meetings, dues, and the benefits of being a member. Sam was ready to kick back and rest. Bryan’s ability to turn anything into a business opportunity wore on her sometimes although she always found it beneficial.

“Shall we go watch that movie you brought?” Bryan began to get up in his deliberate way. He had to be extra careful since the accident when he lost his leg.

“Yes, we’ve let time get away from us already.” Sam went into the living room, picked up the remote from the rough tweedy upholstered couch while Bryan dragged his injured leg as he shuffled into the room.

“This is a great movie, but you’ll want to make sure you have an extra box of Kleenex.”

“Sam, did you bring another tear-jerker chick flick?”

“No, it’s just so touching and I know you—you’ll cry. You keep telling me to include Kleenex, so I’m warning you.”

He lowered himself down onto the couch as he bent his good leg and allowed the other to stretch out since the prosthesis wasn’t as flexible as his good leg.

The Ron Clark Story began. They watched the entire movie with only the sound of sniffles and nose-blowing periodically throughout. Sam looked at Bryan frequently wondering what really prompted his tears—those he so easily shed. Ninety minutes later he exhaled a deep sigh.

“Whew, what a powerful movie.”

“Hold that thought while I go to the bathroom.” Sam wandered down the hall and closed the door.

When she returned they talked for another hour. Sam shared her fears about whether she could find enough writing assignments in this town, if the book she had in mind would ever get written and published, the recurring discord in their relationship and what that meant. He offered consolation that there would always be a connection, they’d been through too much, and he continued to share some ideas of how she could find more material for the magazine articles she’d be writing. It was clear he cared, even though at times that was not what her interpretation.

“It’s 11 o’clock. It’s past your bedtime and I still have a 40 minute drive home.”

“Yes, it was well worth staying up to visit. I’m glad you came down.” Bryan held out his arms for a hug, but didn’t move to get up.

Sam leaned over, gave Bryan a friendly kiss on the cheek, which he returned. “G’night … until next time.”


She cordially said hello to one of the residents in the hall as she left Bryan’s apartment building and walked to her car in the glow of the parking lot lights.

The drive home was not uneventful. Samantha had a breakthrough. For all the challenges this man had caused her, she spilled into a puddle as she rounded the bend on the highway. “When you listen, I hear me better,” she heard the voice in her head.


Off the Shelf

Movie Resource:
The Ron Clark Story
Echo Bridge Home Entertainment
DVD Released December 2006

The Ron Clark Story is real. It's about a young man from North Carolina who is making a difference in this world. A white man from the south goes to the inner city in New York because he loves to teach and wants to make his big dreams come true. He jumps the hurdles of disrespect, disinterest, and disregard and teaches a classroom of underprivileged students what it is to accomplish something. He made a promise to help these kids who believed they were losers because the administration and other teachers set the bar so low there was nothing to reach for.

The movie, based on this true story, was riveting, but even more engaging was the section of special bonus features highlighting the accomplishments of the real Ron Clark. He has gone on to open a school in Atlanta, Georgia called the Ron Clark Academy. It's such a special place that other educators want to go there to learn his secrets and students will "want to learn, to dream big, and to realize their own potential."

Don't miss personal interviews by/with Ron Clark