At my speech therapy appointment this morning the therapist said a couple of things that were interesting. Firstly, that the voice isn't a "thing" but is a result of what we do. Also, that the voice is really made (and heard) by the vowel sounds as they are fuller and more rounded than consonants.

We talk about the voice as though it is fixed, constant, when it varies and is actually the result of muscle movements and shaping. We "lose" it but are actually loosing the ability to make it, to move the muscles in the right way to create the sounds we need.

If our voice was an actual "thing" then we wouldn't be able to put on different accents or do impressions - it's just the default muscle movements and particular dimensions of parts of our body make what we recognise as our voice.

Now, the point about vowels sounds was that we need to speak more slowly for them to be given the room they need, to be more rounded and expressive. When we speak more quickly the vowels are shortened and we are left with staccato consonants, the voice is less expressive, harder to produce and understand.

Most of my exercises have focused on slowing down and moving the voice more to the front of the mouth where the vowels can be held, shaped, projected.

It made me think about how, as writers, we are told to "find our voice" but, as with speech, is it not actually a thing but is simply the result of what we do.

Our written voice is formed by the way we implement the rules of language, the movements and patterns we employ, the words we use. It doesn't exist in the strict sense but how we write and our habitual defaults are what combine to form that which we recognise as ours.

Just as we can shape our speaking voice so can we alter the written one. We can retrain the muscles, project it differently with different phrasing, and slow it down to give the words and ideas room to be more expressive.

When consciously focusing on how my voice is produced, when slowing down and forming it correctly, it sounds much better than before. The trick is for this focus to be internalised, to become a subconscious act - something that we also need to happen with our written voices.

  1. I used to sing in bands and do voice lessons, so I'm familiar with a lot of what you're talking about. Did your therapist get you to hum and open into vowel sounds? That's also a great way to move 'move the sound forward'—and get your voice back when you lose it. I'd say our written voice is not just a result of what we do but who we are. And a big part of the trick is aligning the two. It takes a long time to settle into our own skin and let that voice come out.
    1. Colin Walker says: #
      Yes, that’s been the most successful part of the therapy I feel. It’s really made a difference. That’s a good point about who we are. I think that ultimately influences the “what we do” when it comes to writing but, yes, being comfortable with it is not always easy.

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