Tag Archives: peterelbow

ii. speak yourself

In this metaphorical world, then, even if we figure out the system, we are stuck. If we want to be heard we are limited to our single note. If we want to sing other notes, we will not be heard.
And yet, if we are brave and persistent enough to sing our note at length–to develop our capacity for resonance–gradually we will be able to ‘sing ourselves in’: to get resonance first into one or more frequencies and then more. Finally, we will be able to sing whatever note we want to sing, even to sing whatever note others want to hear, and to make every note resound with rich power.
Peter Elbow, Power 282
(qtd. in “Voices in Writing” 172)

Whaaaaaaat? I’m starting a blog post with a deep quote and not an awkward “oKAY KIDS WE’RE HERE LET’S GO” ? Unheard of. Unthinkable. Wild.

Maybe I’m learning. Maybe I’m still lowkey, wistfully emotional and riding the high of a double concert weekend. I gotta give my wallet a break, my god.

Anyway. Elbow. I’m really digging this article. Like, wow. I feel like I won’t be able to do it (nor anything else I’m planning on talking about) justice with my paltry commentary.  Here goes nothing, I suppose.

So, from the beginning, I could already see the whole either/or debate Elbow would later talk about throughout the paper. We have those who are all into students/writers having their own voice in writing and that voice is something that should be taught to try to achieve, then we have the skeptics who are like “y’all are just adapting to your audience so it’s not Really You but a You that’s been Socially Constructed to Fit Into A Mold.”

And like. I get it. I get what the skeptics are saying. Yes, people are so altered by society’s expectations of them that they almost don’t become people living for themselves anymore, but people living exclusively for others, even going as far as being a different person for each of those different people… so like, does a Real You even exist at that point?

Fun fact: I read a fanfiction that discussed that whole concept once. One of the best fics I’ve ever read.

Ten points if you could follow that long sentence. Because I’m afraid to reread it again. Regardless, Elbow has the right idea in disagreeing with the either/or debate, because things are never in black and white.

I feel like… we won’t be able to change the fact that we are socially constructed if we don’t try to alter society ourselves. If we don’t try for sincerity in writing and in general, we’ll never get it at all–if that makes sense. It’s completely true that we are changed by our places in society, but that’s a very dour and complacent state of mind to stay in. Real nihilistic, if you ask me. So… it’s fine to focus on your own voice in writing. It can really help with soul-searching and whatnot.

But along that same line, I’d say it’s not wrong to adapt the voice of your writing for your audience. For example, do you think I’m gonna write like this for a legitimate paper? With snark and thinly-veiled exhaustion and maybe one thought too many ?

Nah. I’ll reign it in. But does that mean my academic voice is any more or less Me? There surely is one real voice in me, but can’t it have more than one tone? Adaptability doesn’t always equate “artificiality,” which Elbow brings up a bit later in the article with an interesting quote:

“Naturalness is persuasive, artificiality is the contrary; for our hearers are prejudiced and think we have some design against them.” (169)

Lemme just @@@@ all those skeptics. Sure, there will be those writers that try to fool their readers into believing that they’re all-knowing, but it’s the writers who put their own selves into their writing that truly get (or should get) listened to.

Later on, Elbow talks about how there are those who believe that text gives no window to the actual self. Interesting. I’d say maybe not the whole self, because pshhh our whole selves aren’t even visible to us to begin with. But… given the right topic, you can have a person writing some pretty honest and soul-bearing stuff.

(I’m reminded of a blog post I did back in the day on fanfiction. That was a wild ride. I still shoot that link at people once in a while.)

Even more later on, Elbow brought up voice in different types of writing. I’m gonna go off about the voice in Internet language. I’m generally active in groupchats and on Twitter, and text-speech and internet lingo is a whole language on its own.

Elbow talks about how “handwriting is more personal and body-connected than typing, so handwritten words are often more experienced as more ‘voiced’ than typed or printed words. With the resources of word processing, people sometimes try to create or bring out a voice by using certain fonts” (176). That’s all well and good, but what about those platforms where you can’t utilize formatting options like fonts, bolding, italicizing, underlining, strikethroughs, etc.? Emoticons and emojis come to mind, but with text alone, more subtle trends come and go.

In fact! Who better to introduce those “Twitter Linguistics” than a student who studied them. A Twitter user conducted a survey (which I participated in) earlier in the year about different linguistic trends utilized online (particularly Twitter) such as “Keyboard Smashes,” “Excessively Long Ellipses,” “Non-Interrogative Question Marks,” etc.–most, if not all, of which I use on a daily basis. The user then posted later, saying that the paper was completed, so there you go! 

Now, all these little trends can help effectively convey one’s voice and attitude over cyberspace. I’ve been told that, in a messenger setting, I can easily be “heard” when I send messages. Whether it’s a rAISE IN VOICE or a……. confused…………. drawn-out….. pause, or??? ?? a disbelieving? ? ? series of not-questions? ????, little text quirks can bring a new context to a person’s voice in writing.

When appropriate, of course. You won’t see me going jfklsjfkldsjkl in an academic paper.

I think that’s all I’ll say for this reading! I can’t wait to go over it more in class. It was actually a really interesting read.

There’s just one more thing I want to touch on before I go.

Last week in class, we watched a TEDtalk about “The danger of a single story” by novelist Chimamanda Adichie:

Hers was an incredible story. I was only able to answer two of the three posed questions during our Twitter discussion:

Before I did, though, I mentioned how I was reminded of a speech I’d heard earlier in the day at the United Nations General Assembly by the leader of popular K-Pop group, BTS. Truthfully, I felt (and feel) a little silly bringing it up, but the message of the speech–about youth, self-empowerment, self-love, and finding your voice to “Speak Yourself” and tell your story–was too important to pass up.

Everyone has a story to tell, after all. One that should be told and should be listened to. It’s something I stand for.

So yeah, voice is important. Probably more important than any of us can comprehend on our own.

See y’all next week.

— C