One of the best compliments any artist can get, be they painters, writers, sculptors or probably even dancers and musicians, is that they have found their artistic voice.
To know that your art, the message in the bottle that you have thrown into the ocean a million times, the song you have whistled into the ether while wishing upon a star, has finally found an ear that recognises it as uniquely yours – that is magic.
Many have had a say, voiced an opinion and given advice on finding your voice. One excellent article, from a visual arts perspective, can be found here.
It is not my intention to add my two cents’ worth to this million dollar question. What I do want to suggest is that an artist can lose his or her voice, maybe more than once, and hopefully then find it again. Although it will possibly then be a changed voice. I know. I have lost my voice before.
As a young poetry debutant I was hailed and praised and awarded. Critics applauded my “strikingly unique voice and insight” and commented that I had “a voice that has ripened on its own”. I was flattered. I floated to the skies on their praise. Too much, too soon.
When the applause died down, I could not sing anymore. I tried the same rhythms, the same rhymes, but my voice was gone. In my next poetry collection it is hoarse and breaking. I was like a young boy with a glorious soprano voice suddenly hitting puberty. My artistic voice had shattered like crystal and the pieces could never be glued together again.
Let this be told, however. If you are passionate enough; if you keep going; if you put your head down and sing and paint and write through the hoarse and croaky and voiceless days; if you forge ahead when it seems as if you have forever been silenced; if you persist – you will find your voice again. And it will be deeper and richer and better.
Finding your artistic voice can be a slow and dangerous process. It is a viable thing that grows from the voice box of your soul. Losing it can drive you to despair. But if you have found the way once, you can do it again. It will grow from the tiniest remnant of sound, just a tinkle, no more than a whimper of belief.
Keep going. Only you can grow your voice.
For the past thirty one years I have been keeping record of every book I read. It is just a list of titles and authors. Sometimes a book gets a tick (*), a nod of appreciation. Most years I also choose my “Book of the Year”.
I have a vague new year’s resolution to fill in the gaping holes in my memory with short notes on the book’s plot and maybe a star rating. But for now, here is my 2015 list.
Hope your 2016 is filled to the brink with books and art!