Whenever I teach a child, I learn something.
That may be cliche, but it is true for me. I’m not a teacher, but every parent is a teacher (intentional or not). The engineer in me likes to do things intentionally.
Voice is notoriously difficult to describe, let alone teach. But some kids seem to have an intuitive sense of it. I think this is because they haven’t learned the rules yet, or feel less hampered by them. They “talk” in their writing the way they think in their heads, which taps into a natural voice that is uniquely them.
I love having my boys write their own Christmas Letters for this very reason.
Here’s 7 year old Mighty Mite:
On Christmas Eve last year, my mom got me two cats for Christmas. The cats were soft and furry. We named one Techy and one Ninja. We renamed Ninja to Fluff Meister. Last summer, I started to take piano lessons with Mrs. Ryan. By the way, my name is Ryan. That’s pretty strange, isn’t it?
Never mind that the cats belong to the family – in Mighty Mite’s world, I got them for him, and him alone. You can just hear the 7yo innocence in his Voice, and that his world rotates around the people (and cats) in it.
Here’s 9 year old Worm Burner:
Hi, my name is Sam I’m
going to tell you what mischief I’ve been up to this year.
Gotten 2 cats Techy and Ninja, who would do any
thing to be able to write ‘jhgusqpjyfcqa’ on the computer.
Messed around with everything from cats to
indefinitely lost internet connections.
Eaten huge amounts of cheese.
You immediately hear Sam’s sly sense of humor, and you can see from the way he plays with fonts and bullet points and the mentions of internet and computers that he is very tech-savvy. But mostly, his voice tells you very clearly “I’m mischievious; look out for me.”
I’d want to read more, wouldn’t you?
This is what a great Voice does – pulls you in and makes you want more. Developing a voice that is pure and clear sometimes means going back to an intuitive sense of who you are as a writer. Let your inner child out to play. Let that authentic Voice take over, and speak the bare truth inside.
Speaking truth: definitely something that kids can teach us.