Voice, Coffee, a Friend, and Photography

Not too long ago, I reposted a short piece from an old blog of mine that I started back in college. The post was on writing, as were many of the other posts (11) that I put up on that blog, and while the one that I slapped up the other day was one of the few I felt was worth resharing (since it wasn’t exclusively related to the novel I was writing), this piece is probably the only other one.

I met with a friend that summer who’d been for so much of my life a mentor-like figure to me. We’d not seen each other for years at that point and as we were talking, it got me thinking about something I’d like to write about: creative voice. Here is that short little piece from over 3 1/2 (!!) years ago.


I’ve had a weird streak lately of getting in touch with, and meeting people, I haven’t seen for years.  And not people from high school or childhood friends, mind you, but mentor-ish friends.  Old teachers, camp counselors, people like that.  I met with one of them last night.

We sat over coffee, in a coffee shop, with coffee, talking, catching up about what’s been going on, hearing about his children, where life’s been taking him, how God has played into all of this, and we got on the subject of voice.

Now, voice is a tricky thing to get a grasp on, especially our own, and even more especially if you are going to school for an artistic degree like I am.  People are biased (crazy thought.  I know) and the things that they think, the way that they see things are the way, if they aren’t careful, that they will convey information to everyone else.  The strange thing is that it’s good, to a degree.  Everyone is different.  We have different thoughts and ways of going about things, and hearing about others is an excellent way to see what they do, realize the way they do it is not the way you do it, or ever would do it.


In a way, it’s invaluable to the development of our own voice, but destructive and dangerous to the development of it as well.  A professor disagreeing with my voice and trying to shape it, somewhat, into theirs is something I’ve dealt with and struggled with.  It wasn’t until I got a firmer grasp on what my voice is, in not just writing, but everything, that I began to fight for it.

Because only we can defend our voices.

My friend’s wife took up photography when their first child was born.  As time went on, they had two more children, jobs shifted, were dropped and changed, and she continued her pursuit of photography.  And has done really well with it.

But she struggled with voice.

She struggled with the expectations of the people around her (other photographers, the people getting photographed, etc.) who expected her to do a certain thing; to take certain photographs in a certain way when she had a voice of her own she needed to let out.

And she did.  And is much better for it.

So maybe it isn’t the easiest thing to grasp.  Maybe it shouldn’t be.  But it’s the most important thing we as writers and photographers and teachers and whatever else have to tell our story in the way we want to tell it.

Here too—I’m sure she won’t mind—is the website of the amazing photographer I mentioned.  It’s really great.

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