Using Your Outside Voice

Before publishing my very first blog post, I ran it past my teenaged daughter Bea.

She said, “Mom, you’re using your storyteller voice again.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

She shrugged. “Oh, you know…narrative, formal, soft and wise. You might think like that inside your head, but it’s not the way you talk.”

“How do I talk?”

“You’re funny.  And sassy.  Mom, your idea is good.  Just say the same thing, only write like you’d say it. Write in the same voice you used to write Real Troopers.”   Out of the mouth of babes.

How many times were we told as children to use our Inside Voice, the demure, soft, polite, quiet voice that will offend and disturb no one?  I’ll tell you: LOTS.  Now my own child was urging me to use my Outside Voice, that of the goofball, smart ass, class clown.

It’s the sometimes-too-loud voice that spills out of my mouth when I’m with trusted family and friends. As Bea observed, it’s the voice I use in my novel-in-progress, Real Troopers.  Maybe I struck the right chord in Real Troopers because it’s about sassy funny Girl Scout leaders, written from the point of view of a middle-aged woman who is desperately trying to find her real voice.

So I turned that first post into more of a conversation than a story, and Bea was right—I like it so much better.  I’m happier when using my Outside Voice, in my backyard, in my living room, and in my writing.

Or perhaps I should say, ‘When I allow my Inner Voice to go Outside to play.’

All I need now is to make my readers a virtual cup of coffee, and come to the table–or the computer–in my jammies for an early morning chat.  Hey, got a minute? Wanta cuppa? Cream or sugar?

All words and images copyright Naomi Baltuck

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Photo Challenge: Express Yourself.

BTW: Adventures in Hats is my daughter Bea’s writing blog.  I won’t embarrass her by telling you she’s won awards for her poetry and her stories.  But I will say that I can almost hear her voice when I read it, and her illustrations are delightful.  If you drop by, tell her I said ‘howdy!’

91 Comments

    1. Dear Meg,

      There is a place of honor for serious conversation–it’s generally the stuff that moves mountains. But I’ve seen you dance and play with an audience, like when you were a featured storyteller at The Forest Festival. Your voice on your blog, Story Twigs the Imagination, https://megteller2.wordpress.com is very natural and often playful. I don’t know anyone more playful or accommodating than you and Lesley were on your last visit, and I have the photographic evidence to prove it! I wish you lived closer, and we would go shake things up as only a couple of kooky middle-aged ladies can!

  1. When did our kids get so smart? Nothing wrong with lightening up, right. It’s even fun. Congratulations on your book. Can’t wait to hear more about it.
    Wonderful pictures as usual. I snorted my coffee when I came to the 4th picture. The head football. 😀 😀 😀

  2. Having just spent three weeks in Hawaii with grandchildren who don’t distinguish between outside and inside voices, I laughed out loud reading this. They reminded me that I have, over the years, become so adept at inside voice I’ve almost forgotten what that outside voice sounds like. But they demanded stories in Outside Voice, as your wise daughter did. Love this post!

  3. Aloha, dear Cathryn! What a wonderful experience that must have been! What lucky grandkids you have–imagine being gifted with three weeks of top notch storytelling by one of the best in the business! And how lucky you are to have them. As Kathryn Windham would say, “You are twice blessed!”
    Thanks so much for the visit, and for sharing a response that makes me smile.

  4. That outside voice – the one that needs to be preserved and protected – is the voice of warmth, of being real, the one that draws us all in and makes us love (and often, envy) you. Don’t lose it, please.

    1. Dear Carol,
      I have learned to trust that voice, in part, as I followed your wonderful blog. You share your life in such an open truthful way that your readers have become friends who are very much invested in you and your story. Perhaps that’s why I was so moved when I read your response to this post. Thank you, as always, for your thoughtful and kind encouragement.
      Love,
      Naomi

    1. Hi Sue,

      I am so grateful to have a walking buddy to pry me out of my cozy little nest, and even more grateful to have one that I can talk to about anything and everything!

  5. The first thing I remember my college voice teacher saying is, “You sing like someone who’s been told all her life to ‘modulate’ her voice.” How did she know those were my mom’s exact words? I like your sassy voice, but I’d probably like your soft and wise voice, too, reading me a story. Sounds very comfy!

    1. That’s a very interesting story about your mom and your voice teacher! I loved reading aloud to my kids. As a storyteller and a former puppeteer, I used ALL my voices during story time. But you’re right– in life, as well as story time, there is a time and a place for soft and wise.
      Thank you, as ever, for stopping by and bringing your unique perspective into the conversation.

    1. Hi Alison,
      Thank you! One of the reasons I follow your blog is because I appreciate the honesty and what feels like a genuine voice in your storytelling. Not to mention I love to tag along to all the wonderful places you two go, and admire the photographs you share.

    1. Hi Marilyn,
      I really appreciate having a daughter who is also a writer. One of my favorite things to do with her is to ‘talk story.’ Thanks for the visit, and for taking the time share a thoughtful response. I enjoyed my wander over to your blog, and look forward to reading more!

    1. Oh, I know what you’re talking about. Kids are pretty sharp, and they pick up on these things, but it’s especially wonderful that they can articulate them and so good for us to listen. Thanks for sharing, Carol.

      1. Thanks, Carol. Today my son arrives from Turkey for the first visit since he left last summer, so I know it will be a great weekend! I hope yours is a gooder too!

  6. I do think we take on different voices and I like chewing on how you presented it – like the story teller voice – and well – I will take my coffee black please. 🙂

      1. coming right up (hope 2% works) – and for our coffee chat – I think I will like the storyteller voice for starters – lol

    1. This is the manuscript I have been working on for too long. It’s a fun read, but I wasn’t sure how it was supposed to end. Now I know, and so I rented a cabin for a week, and won’t come home until it’s finished!
      I’ll be sure and let folks know when it’s ready.

  7. I wasn’t able to get to your first post (perhaps a problem on my end; I’ll try again later…) but in case I’m not the only one, I wanted to let you know.

    1. Dear Letitia and Nancy,
      Thanks so much for the heads up! I went back and created a better link, and tested it out, so now you should be able to connect to my first blog post ever. Thanks again for let tin gem know. I know you would be the special kind of friends who whisper to a friend that she’s got mustard on her face, so she can fix it! We all need folks like that in our lives.

      1. haha, yes, always tell a friend if she’s got mustard on her face 🙂 In a discreet way of course! Off to check out the post…

    1. Hi Nancy,
      I love that you let us into your house and invite us to your family celebrations. I can relate to your family when they are goofing around and being silly like we often do at our house. Your voice seems very relaxed and natural to me.

  8. Love this post, Naomi, especially since I read it while still in my jammies and drinking my morning coffee! I love the inside-outside voice metaphor SO much, cuz it say so much about how so many of us are conditioned to not be our authentic selves.

    1. Oooh, coffee sounds good. I’m going to run into the kitchen in my jammies and pour myself a cup too!
      Thank you for the visit, and for joining the conversation. I think you’re right about how conditioned we are. Women are conditioned to be demure and submissive and ladylike. I think men too are conditioned to hide their sensitive side and not appear too emotional, unless they are expressing anger or outrage, which, sadly, is regarded by some as more manly than openly expressed tenderness. But there are always exceptions. I married a kindergarten teacher who taught me so much about how to raise my kids!

  9. Outside voice, love it! My first blogs are…a tad mortifying. They were trying to hard, for sure. I think the reason we all love reading blogs so much is hearing the real human behind the words.

  10. Great post for the challenge, Naomi. I love reading your “outside voice” posts. A bit of zaniness is so refreshing amongst all the more serious blogs. I try to keep mine real, and hope my personality shines through too. 🙂

  11. She sounds like quite a wise child Naomi. I loved your post and your photos this week so clearly she’s on to something. You sound like someone I would really like to know!! BTW, the photo with the disconnected head is fabulous!!!

    1. Hi Tina,

      Thank you so much! We took that photo in a stone circle in Killarney. It was late afternoon and the foot traffic was light. The whole family, even my husband, just let go of all inhibition and we did a whole series of silly shots like this. I still smile to think of it.

    1. Thank you, Cybele. My sister Constance and Bea and I were down at the beach near my house and the sunset was a strange one, with a strip of clouds below and one above, and this amazon stripe of sunset in between. Constance is a good sport and was happy to pose while I found just the right vantage point to create this effect.

    1. Dear Roy,
      I love that expression–a wise old owl–and it really does seem to fit. This novel is SO different from The Keeper of the Crystal Spring–contemporary women’s–but I hope it will be a fun read. I will keep you posted.
      Thanks, Roy, as ever, for making me smile!

  12. Gosh, now you’ve made me think, Naomi. Finding the right voice for the context…Hm. We know this is true in fiction, but I hadn’t really thought about my blogging voice.

  13. How lucky we are to have children who remind us of who we really are. Sometimes my daughter describes me to myself and I’m astonished at her view of me. She gives me so much more credit than I ever think I’m due. Truth be told, I wish I were more like her.

    1. Hi Juliann,
      You are so right. Your comment made me smile in recognition. I remember seeing that T Shirt that said, “Please, lord, let me be the person my dog thinks I am.” I have often thought that about my kids!

  14. Naomi, I’m so looking forward to reading your novel. A sassy funny female protagonist sounds just the ticket. I think that children always prefer their parents to be natural and genuine. My outer voice used to get me into trouble but, now I’m older, it seems to have calmed down and acquired a short delay-switch on it, to help me think before I speak!

    1. Dear Sarah, it makes me smile to think of the child you must have been! Where are you at with your novel? Is it finished? Are you going with a traditional publisher or ePublishing? I got a Kindle the Christmas before last, but have not downloaded a book yet–I’m an old dog and didn’t want to face learning how to use another piece of technology, but I would learn to do it if I could buy your novel and put it onto my virgin Kindle.

      1. Dear Naomi, I finished my novel and started submitting last June. So far no takers. Plenty of compliments about the writing but, so far, nobody can think of a slot to put it into, re marketing. So frustrating. I may end up having to self-publish it. Meanwhile I’ll hang on in there with this one, and have a go self-publishing an earlier novel that was once turned down by an agent on the grounds that it was “too original for a first novel”. Loosely-speaking, it’s science fantasy, with a touch of dark humour and a teeny bit of horror.
        Meanwhile, until I have a novel available, tell me what sort of thing you like reading best and then maybe I can recommend something to put onto your virgin Kindle that’s written by one of my many very talented writing friends.

      2. Hi Sarah,
        I’m glad you aren’t giving up. It is just a matter of connecting with the right agent. I like the idea of trying to self-publish one that you might not have quite the same expectations of–a practice run that could turn out very well for you. I heard several best-selling authors talk about why they let their publishing contracts run out and are switching to self-publishing. More control and more money, they said. But I do think it helps to start out with a traditional publisher to jumpstart things.
        I am reading Louise Erdrich’s The Mater Butcher’s Singing Club right not , just finished East of Eden by Steinbeck (assigned reading by my daughter Bea, but it was very engaging, if not cheery), and the book before that was Monstrous Regiment by Terry Pratchett. One of my favorites is The Heaven Tree Trilogy by Edith Pargeter. Before that, Code Name: Verity, The Book Thief. and A Thread of Grace by Mary Doria Russell. I don’t go for straight romance, but enjoy Anne Tyler, Elizabeth Berg, and Ann Patchett. I do like sci-fi, and have a YA sci-fi novel languishing in my office, awaiting revision, but the last ones I read were a while ago– The Sparrow (Mary Doria Russell), and The Fresco by Sheri S. Tepper. I look forward to your recommendations!

      3. Hi Naomi
        From amongst my writing friends, there’s a YA fantasy novel “Bone Jack” by
        Sara Crowe. This one has been shortlisted for a couple of prestigious prizes and was in the Daily Telegraph Top 10 YA books for 2014. Sara is an amazing writer whose love of the landscape, nature, and mythology all come together so beautifully in this novel.
        There’s also “Saxon’s Bane” by Geoffrey Gudgion. Again, he paints a wonderful picture of the English countryside and village life. The story rather crosses genres, but can best be described as a mystery fantasy. He’s my guest storyteller this Saturday, so look out for him.
        “By the Sea” by Henry Gee is excellent, too. Another cross genre novel — gothic, fantasy, science fiction, horror, crime, you name it, but a really exciting read.

        And, of course, there’s “The Range” (a speculative “what-if” novel) by Dave Farmer, whom I’ve just interviewed on my blog.

        The best novel I’ve read in 2014 (not written by one of my friends) was “The Goldfinch” by Donna Tartt.

        I’ve plenty more recommendations, if you want!

  15. Your images match the spirit of your ‘outside’ voice perfectly! 🙂 Fun post Naomi. Now I need to run my ‘voices’ by my daughter. Have no doubt her sons wil want to add their two penny bits 😀

  16. Ha, I’m looking forward to reading your novel. My boss has to edit my writing at work for my ‘common’ voice. Stuff in the corporate world ain’t really meant to sound like it comes out of a common Yorkshire lass’ mouth.

    It’s the beauty of blogging that we can write as we are.

  17. This is wonderful advice. The Bea is a smart cookie. I’m not surprised she has won awards for her writing. She’s a chip off the, um, er, not old block.

  18. I know a friend who is gregarious, funny and a cluster of energy all the time. When someone asked me why is he like that at this age, I told them, “It is a gift to be able to be who you are without having to put on a mask when you meet different people. Not all of us can be like that.

    This article is a good reminder. Thanks

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