Deep down, I knew I had something to say. Instead, I sat there frozen.
Best way to put it — I was a replica of petrified wood.
My thoughts never saw the outside world. Sometimes they did. When someone else spoke my mind.
When that flicker happened, a glint of happiness seared through my persona. It brought involuntary memories loaded with giddy delights.
Here are some distinct ones.
A new phone was being developed. The year was 2007. Blackberry was the norm. The consensus was to have more screen space. Conventional wisdom is to make the screen bigger. The exact opposite happened. The plastic keyboard made way for more screen space! That was a scene from the memorable launch of iPhone by Steve Jobs.
I never thought of the phone. Well, the complementary thinking behind it –yes.
You see, when the norm is to run one way, I always like to explore the run in the other direction- “What happens if the opposite is true?”
I contemplated it, I let my mind wander, I dug deep into my inner voice. And yet never vocalized it.
I found examples in my work life too. A decade ago, my team modeled massive, state of the art gas turbines that can ramp up and down to generate electricity. The models did the obvious — run during the sweltry day times and shut off during uneconomic night hours. That created a heartburn. Starts [restart] were never as reliable as we expect on paper. The operations folks were at loggerheads with the commercial folks.
One day, the opposite was contemplated. What happens if we do not shut down the machines overnight? The hidden benefits tumbled out. And the world simplified.
Yet I never voiced my thoughts. It was always someone else doing the honors. For two reasons. 1) Standing out from the herd is nice on paper and difficult in practice. And more realistically 2) to verbalize a wandering mind succinctly — why take the chance.
I let the thoughts bottle up inside and dwindle away. Then, somewhere along the way, I felt the essence of any bottle we hold, the neck of the bottle. I discovered “so what?”
When I read any wonderful book, during the moments of the read — the feelings are great, some ideas are novel, and/or the interactions among the characters are a standout. When I turn the last page of the book, after reading the epilogue, I close my eyes. I think through what matters for the long-term memory. That sums up my “so what?”
And that brought me back to earth. A wanderer with a purpose.
I was still around familiar sounds, in familiar settings with familiar smells to summon memories. Nothing externally changed. All I did extra was bring my two inner guiding lights to roost beyond thoughts — in my choice of words.
What if the opposite is true? & so what? Some examples.
1) “And is a conjunction.” I remember these words distinctly in my English teacher’s booming voice. In school, “and” was useful to bead my simple sentences. And conjure up a level playing field with the mighty English orators in my class.
Along the way, I found it useful contemplating “what if the opposite is true?” The answer — Break long sentences by starting with an “and”.
And a world of simplicity opened.
2) Passive voice is poor writing. What happens if the opposite is true?
Active voice follows a predictable pattern — person, action and then recipient. Many times, the recipient is the main topic in the flip — passive voice. It puts the “so what?” recipient first — quietly bringing the thoughts to the world.
In these building blocks, I learned that a voice happens when you set your words free, deep from the flutter of your heart. And with a purpose — the reader’s so what?
Somewhere along the way, I realized my voice is found in the prism through which readers see the colors within my stories. Each one her own.
That is one half of the story. Here is the external half.
Collating Beads of my own inspirations to find my voice.
On discovering myself:
Sometimes I like to spread my wings to fly high like an eagle. I chuckled when I first read this A.P.J. Abdul Kalam’s quote — “All Birds find shelter during a rain. But Eagle avoids rain by flying above the Clouds.”
Sometimes I like to dwell deep into the pantheons of thought to grasp the sense of the bottle — the neck through which the essence flows. The synthesis on what truly matters. Some call it a priority within priority. I call it the lazy ones way of finding an easy way to mine for diamonds. “I choose a lazy person to do a hard job. Because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it.” Bill Gates
“You are writing primarily to please yourself, and if you go about it with enjoyment you will also entertain the readers who are worth writing for.” William Zinsser.
On Making a Difference with your words
If you ever feel choked by irreverence, these words have soothed me.
“If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.” The Dalai Lama
“It is from the unknowable shadows of your subconscious that your stories will find their drive and from which they will draw their meaning. No one can loan that or teach you that. Your voice is your self in the story.” Donald Amass
My few cents for you and me.
Do you have a lot of thoughts running in your head? Do you wonder how they come out in words? How to project the best and channelize into the world?
To each her own.
Over a dinner with a well-wisher, the best words I heard about success — “relationships matter.” His college-going daughter seated next to him smiled. I asked her, “why?” She said, “I hear him say it often.”
This blog is my attempt — my story on finding my voice that helped me build relationships.
All we can do in life is break bread together and share our stories.
Somewhere along the way, a budding voice is born.