Sunrise in Camden Harbor, -10 degrees
“Objectivity and again, objectivity, and expression: no hind-side-beforeness, no straddled adjectives, no Tennysonianess of speech; nothing – nothing that you couldn’t, in the stress of some circumstance, in the stress of some emotion,
(Emphasis mine), Every literaryism, every book word, fritters away a scrap of the reader’s patience, a scrap of his sense of your sincerity.”
The Kings’ Speech
tells the story of the man who becomes King George VI, after his brother abdicates the throne to marry Wallace Simpson. Bertie, as the future king is called, suffers from a speech impediment and a deep and irrational fear of speaking publicly. After years of trying to overcome his challenge, Bertie works with an unorthodox and remarkable teacher who takes Bertie back to the origin of his fears and helps him to find his voice. In the last dramatic minutes of the film, King George VI
delivers a faultless speech by radio heard around the world declaring Great Britain’s war on Nazi Germany in 1939. This moment in the film is the moment of triumph. The hero has found his voice.
In watching the movie, I was struck by the parallels between Bertie finding his voice and my students and clients finding their voices. When my students come into class, they often write with a voice they consider to be “real” writing. We might call it writerly, because it is not true to the natural rhythms of the writers’ speech. It is not believable. When Bertie is able to stand before the microphone and deliver his famous speech, he is believable. Any good actor knows that when they deliver lines, it has to sound as if they are delivering them for the first time. The same is true of writing, the lines must sound alive. In order to get writers to discover the natural rhythm of the voice, the first exercise in Method Writing is “Write Like You Talk” We ask the writer to start with an empty mind – think the Buddhist concept of Beginner’s Mind – and then write just like they talk. The way anyone talks. Jack Grapes, my mentor and the creator of Method Writing, says this: “Our brain is hard-wired as it applies to speech and the syntax of language.” He goes on to say that if we are writing a shopping list, or dashing off a quick note to someone, we tend to write in “the syntax of speech.” We don’t add a lot of adverbs, a ton of adjectives or compound sentences. Straightforward and to the point. Just as Ezra Pound says above. This is what we look for in the development of the Deep Voice. First discovery of the natural rhythm or your voice, then, through a series of exercises, we begin to find your Deep Voice.
Open your journal; empty your mind, no thinking about what you are about to write. Pick up your pen and begin to write. Imagine you are talking to a friend, recounting your day. Write like you talk. Write for two pages. When you finish, read it aloud. Does it sound believable? Does it sound like you? Repeat the exercise until you begin to identify your voice. And, as a further exercise, listen to yourself as you talk in ordinary conversation throughout your day.
Sea smoke over Camden Harbor, -10 degrees