Trouver Sa Voix – Find Your Voice

This is part of the Claim Your Authority series.

The French have an expression, ‘trouver sa voie’. I translate this as ‘ to find her path’. It can also be spelled ‘trouver sa voix’, which means ‘find her voice’.

When I set out to write a novel, I thought I was being clever. I thought writing about Sylvia Beach would allow me to avoid that first, autobiographical novel.

Writing from Sylvia’s perspective, I loved my lyrical passages where I tried to inhabit Sylvia’s world.

But after I came back from a week researching in Sylvia’s archives in Princeton, my enthusiasm for the novel ground to a halt. I could only go so far inventing Sylvia’s truths for myself. I respected her too much to try to push her gentle struggles into a sensationalistic spotlight. She would have hated that.

Shortly after my return from Princeton, I had a breakthrough. During a free writing session with my group, my pen lead me to engage Sylvia directly in a dialogue. Instantly the writing was electrified. Instantly I was closer not only to Sylvia but to something vital in myself.

I showed the pages to Carl and he said, Yes! Write more of that!

So I kept going with this me-like character and her interactions with Sylvia Beach, because it felt much better than trying to write Sylvia’s story. I had no idea how I was going to deal with what had effectively become a ‘time travel novel’, but I plunged forward anyway.

This character became Lily Heller. She made plucky choices that I wouldn’t have dared. As I wrote, I both met and grew myself. The story helped show me who I am and what is important to me.

Making this change put me solidly on my path. I became a witness both of Sylvia and myself. 

Here’s a truth I discovered that’s at the core of my coaching, teaching and my own creative quest: we need role models but those role models can only take us so far before we have to forge our own path.

With Sylvia as a distant guide and the novel as an intimate and challenging proving ground, I kept questing for my voice/path. Staying with this project forced me to see and understand insights I would have lost if I had skipped to other, simpler projects.

Finding your voice as a writer is one of the biggest challenges in writing. I’m still finding my voice. But writing and publishing this novel has taken me a long way toward discovering – and owning – my voie/voix.

What has helped you find your voice and path? What role models have taken you to the edge and forced you to find your own way?

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2 comments to Trouver Sa Voix – Find Your Voice

  • Dennis Connel

    Morning Cynthia,

    Here are some thoughts that have been visiting me since reading your post.

    My voice is a moving experience so can never be found. There have been times when there was more certainty about what I believed and thought but on reflection I could see I had that same certainty about where I was in times past as well. It is only in comparing the present with the past that there is even a voice. Voice is a movement. When I thought I had found it, it moved on – disappeared. Reinventing. I can even see that wanting certainty vs uncertainty stopped the flow of the voice.

    Who knew all those thoughts were waiting to be exposed.

    Thanks for the blog.


  • Dennis,

    I love this perspective on voice. It’s true – it is a moving, living thing. To capture something in writing is to capture that moment of your voice. That precise time when your voice sounded that way.

    I can look back at things I wrote a long time ago and see the difference in my voice.

    This notion of voice as mobile may be helpful to writers and artists who are trying to ‘nail something’ down that they can consistently replicate. I think after awhile we become tired of that voice and need to shake it up and move it on.

    Thanks for commenting – I love this idea and will keep pondering it.