Friday, May 12, 2006

Finding Your Voice (Mary Pipher)

One of my favorite non-fiction writers is therapist Mary Pipher, author of Reviving Ophelia, Another Country, and The Shadow of Each Other. I was pleased to learn about her new book, Writing to Change The World, which I began reading this week.

In Pipher's chapter titled "What You Alone Can Say", she writes about finding your voice -- a subject I've commented about in regard to the importance of writing ("speaking") in your own voice in your ethical will. Mary writes that:

"Voice is everything we are, all that we have observed, the emotional chords that are uniquely ours -- all our flaws and all of our strengths, expressed in words that best reflect us. Voice is like a snowflake -- complicated, beautiful, and individual. It is essence of self, distilled and offered in service to the world."

Pipher goes on to say, "By diving into the experience of writing, you will learn what you truly think and who you really are. Your self-exploration is a way to pay attention to the work, within yourself and outside yourself, and to experience that Allen Ginsberg called 'surprise mind'. Try answering these questions on paper:

What makes you laugh, cry, and open your heart?

What points do you repeatedly make to those you love?

What topics keep you up at night, or help you fall asleep?

What do you know to be true?

What do you consider to be evil?

What is beautiful to you?

What do you most respect in others?

What excites your curiosity?

If you were the ruler of the world, what would you do first?

What do you want to accomplish before you die?"

What great questions to ask yourself in writing your ethical will (or a poem ... or song ... or a blog!)!

I'm going to add many of these questions to the "reflections exercises" I offer in my ethical will classes and write my own answers to all of them. I invite you to do the same ... and would love to hear how they helped you "find your voice".

Thank you, Mary Pipher, for your insights and for all the "writing to change the world" that you have done over the years!

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