Kris-54

Why I love my Broken Voice…Finally

By Kris Windley

If you’ve been reading my blog for any time at all, you’ve heard me talk about these 2 things at least eleven times:

Embracing your Voice & Finding Your Great Big Why.

In my experience, these 2 things are really important Pre-Prewriting steps any writer should take in order to start really focusing in on her message & sharing it confidently.

Which makes the story I’m about to tell you the perfect one for me to explore this week, because I’m running a free Blogging Warm-up Challenge to help bloggers find their own Great Big Why & then express it using the Writing Process you know I love.

I’ve written about the Great Big Why thing before. I’ve even shared one of the most personal stories I have to show you a piece of my own Great Big Why.

But I’ve never shared this story before about how I spent many years, focusing on perfection…& then built an eventual truce with my own broken Voice.

Since I’m writing my Great Big Why post along-side the Challenge participants this week, it felt like the perfect time to share this one with you.

Because obsessing about making your Voice perfect will only sabotage your efforts of sharing it.

Click to Tweet: Perfectionism has no place in a genuine conversation. So keep it out of your blog planning, kitten.

The draw toward perfectionism can be strong, but it never gives me motivation or creativity.

It shuts me down completely.

I can see you doing it too: reading every line as you go & telling yourself that it’s not good enough. Your hand is hovering over your keys as you search for the absolutely *perfect* word to describe your product – or your feelings – or your breakfast.

Your trashcan (the one in your office, or the one on your laptop screen) is filled with rolled up, balled up pages of work that you refuse to share because it simply isn’t good enough.

People will know. They will see through me.

So you throw away the offending words – the imperfect ones or the pages that make you feel open & vulnerable. You’re not ready to slip out of your safe, protective turtle-shell so you ball up the scariness & run away to hide on Facebook, or in the cookie jar, or under the blankets.

Mic-06

 

But that’s work that you’ve thrown away. Your work! You put time & effort into those pages, & then you tossed them away because they weren’t…what? Perfect?

When I was a teenager, I sang classical music in a world-class choir.

Seriously.

As in – I sang in Latin & German & a few dozen other languages; I sang 7-part-harmonies with famous orchestras all over the world; I sang on TV (in a silly red bonnet…but I’ll tell you about that another day) & in live concerts & recording studios.

I experienced things I can’t even believe: reading newspaper articles with my big ole face on the front page, receiving the music for a performance on the morning of the concert & feverishly practicing for 8 hours straight before a live performance for the composer himself, & travelling the world to sing on stages of all sizes.

I had the joy of breaking out into song spontaneously with just a handful of my friends to have strangers approach us with thanks, & I experienced the power of performing music with as many as 500 other voices that was so beautiful I had tears running down my own face at the sheer power of it.

I sang in Carnegie Hall, when I was fourteen years old.

Yeah. That happened. I still can’t grasp it, really.

Between practises with the garage-band I pretended to be in & napping in the field beside my high school, I had the luxury & absolute fortune to walk up those stage-hall-steps & see signatures of singers like Janis Joplin, Jimmy Hendrix & Luciano Pavarotti on the walls, as I got ready to take the stage they had once stood on.

It was pretty freaking amazing.

But a LOT of work went into getting the 40-odd teenage girls in our choir to that stage. We spent many a Sunday afternoon, Monday night & lunch hour singing & breathing & singing some more.

We drove miles in rented busses, practising scales & harmonies, and we sat crammed into a tiny hotel room on Carnegie West, singing & singing & singing our parts.

All in the pursuit of perfection.

We were professionals, so when those curtains opened in New York, we were expected to bring that level of expertise to every second of our performance – right down to our smiles, “General smiling position of the face, girls!” It was all prepared & practised…perfectly.

It was an amazing experience, full of moments I will never forget, & I miss it. I truly do.

But it did some damage, kitten. It’s been a lot of years since I left that stage, but I’ve only recently come to terms with that damage & embraced the imperfections I naturally have, as – you know – a human person.

Not to mention the damage I caused myself in the process of chasing that perfection.

A year or two after that trip to New York, we were asked to be a part of a concert series with a semi-famous piano player & were sent a packet of music for a choir that included Baritones & Tenors.

The problem was that we were all girls – & one thing girls aren’t naturally suited for? Singing Baritone. That’s the lowest of the low scales, for grown-a@$ men. Like…Barry White low notes.

There was no way we could do that, but we were professionals, so we did.

The 5 or 10 altos in the group who normally carried the lower parts got broken up into tenors and baritones, & we sang those low notes like professionals – perfectly.

We practised pushing our voices down into the lowest ranges we could possibly reach: not quite the octave they were written in, but way too low for a handful of teenage girls to be expected to sing.

At our first dress rehearsal for the concert, we started into the opening bars of “The Little Drummer Boy” & the band leader jumped out of his seat. “Where the f%#k is that baritone coming from?!” he yelled at the stage full of sweet-faced girls in uniforms & knee socks.

Four of us raised our hands from the alto section & he shook his head with his eyes wide, muttered some astonished mumblings at us & went back to the piano to continue the dress rehearsal. Every now and then, he would look up at the four of us again & shake his head.

In the moment, we were super proud. It was pretty amazing that we were able to pull it off, right? I mean, teenage-girls aren’t built to sing that low, so we must have been pretty good to be able to reach those low-down notes, right?

But it hurt.

It hurt a LOT, and by the end of the first night, all of us were barely able to croak out the final notes. Still, we finished & the crowd cheered & the piano man congratulated us on our professionalism & skill.

Another perfect concert, ladies! Well done.

Life went on & I went to a basketball tournament the next weekend with some friends – as any 16 year old does – & I cheered my little heart out as our team won…or didn’t. I don’t even remember that part.

What I do remember is waking up the next day with no voice. None. I literally broke my Voice, kitten. It was gone completely; I had complete laryngitis for over a month.

And when my Voice did come back, it was different. It’s never been the same, in fact. I stopped singing shortly after that concert, because I couldn’t do the thing perfectly any more.

All of those years of practising & learning & perfecting the skills were lost. When I opened my mouth to sing, I couldn’t trust my Voice to come out perfect. I could barely trust that a sound would come out at all.

So I stopped singing completely.

No karaoke. No more garage band (that’s another story). No harmonizing with Phish songs in my friend’s bedroom (it was the 90s). None of it.

Click to Tweet: Let me share a little something about perfect with you, kitten: it’s an illusion…and it’s BORING!

It wasn’t until yeeeeears later, sitting in my kitchen with my daughters, did I hear myself singing & laughing with them & actually love the sound of my Voice.

I could hear something beautiful there. It was sitting in the imperfection, itself.

You see, when I was laughing my heart out with them – that kind of laughter that hurts a little bit, but is so so SO great – I heard the imperfection as something different. It was like a texture or a patina that my Voice has found over the years because of the stresses it’s faced: singing, cheering, teaching, yelling & laughing for over 3 decades of life.

It’s full of my own character & joy – my broken Voice. It crackles with my excitement when I teach. It splits when I call out to someone I recognize from far away, & it cracks to let my emotions out, when I am moved by the message I get to share now.

Those imperfections show more about me than any of the perfectly pitched performances I worked for as a singer…except maybe that time when I didn’t let the fact that I’m a girl stop me from singing a man’s part.

Since then, I’ve gotten attached to my crackling Voice. When I feel it slip & rasp during a coaching call or speech, I kind of love it. Because it means that I’m excited about what I am saying, & I’m using my Voice for what it’s meant to be used for.

And that, my friend, is just perfect. Isn’t it?

It’s time for you to shake your fears about Sharing Your Voice. You can start by taking a look at your own Writing Process to see if it needs a little freedom for creativity and fun.

Oh! And if you need a little more support, find me on Instagram @WriteWithaK, because I like to share Instagram Live videos through my Writing Process each week, and would love to hear about yours.

Thanks for hanging out with me. Now go hit “Publish”!

xo-kris_xo-kris

 

KrisWithaK

Kris is a writer, editor, illustrator, teacher, mother of two amazing young ladies - and enthusiastic cat-belly snuggler. A certified teacher, long-time blogger and experienced brand consultant, she writes about Writing, Business and Blogging...and sometimes about Changing the World.

Comments

  1. Hi Kris, Your story brought me back to my own glory days in high school as part of a competitive marching band. The insane hours of practice and hard work showed me just how high I could fly. I honestly don’t know how I survived the hours of practice combined with homework, part-time jobs, and regular life as a teenager. I’ve always credited it to being strong, youthful, and naive, but maybe it’s really just a matter of being driven, focused, and open to experiencing it “all”. I need to tune back in to that spirited vulnerability. Thanks for sharing such an interesting slice-of-life with us!!! 🙂 EllenO

    • Aw! I love that you could relive your glory days, Ellen 🙂

      I’m often amazed by how much energy we had for life when we were younger, right? And I love marching band! I never really learned to play an instrument (which bums me out a bit), but I loved the orchestra playing with us on special occasions.

      xo
      K

  2. I don’t know what I was expecting when I read the headline…I guess it was somewhere in the vicinity of…”broke her Voice…what?!” Then I got it.

    And then you went deeper. And it’s that depth that I really love about this post. As a Type A person who loves to chase the Faery of Perfectionism into Woods of Reality, only to get lost in the sauce I really appreciate the beauty and truthfulness of this message. It’s not even writing that is the things for me that perfectionism causes me to get all twisted about…it’s life.

    So having permission to be human, to not do, to have my days sometimes be a draft that need revision is a nice sigh of relief. I’m working on polishing so that I can develop my own “Voice” in other areas and express with confidence not perfection.

    <3

    • Thanks, Aradia!

      One of the things I truly believe is that perfectionism is the death to creativity. We have these shiny ideas that seems so perfect…because they don’t exist in reality. They are like the platonic chair 😉 and though they are perfect, they are fairly useless if you want to have a seat.

      xo
      K

  3. Kris, thank you soo soo much for this post! I stumbled over here from the ‘Double Your Followers with Creative Marketing’ that you are a huge part of and so glad that I did. I am currently in the process of starting a professional photography business, which at 31 is uber scary and has me freaking out a little. Anyway, I had been doing research into my market and looking at other photographers in my area and found someone who is just friggin amazing and has the business that I’m aiming for, which is pretty high. AND I just sent him an email to ask for some time to have a chat and get some advice 😀

    I know that he will probably be too busy, but I asked. I wrote the email. It wasn’t perfect. But I wrote it & SENT IT!! So again, thank you for sharing 🙂

    Cat (with a C :p ) xo

    • Yes! You are so welcome, Cat!

      I’m glad you found me here, & I hope you hear back from your mentor – though if you don’t, just the act of standing up & asking will have made you braver & more able.

      xo
      K

  4. Kris,

    Beautiful post, my friend! This was such a special treat for me to read and I enjoyed every word! You are really something, girl!!

    I’ve been super busy with my biz and family and a visit to my sister’s house in AZ! It’s been a great end to the summer.

    I’m going home on Thursday and I was spending tonight catching up on some blog posts and such. I also signed up for your Blogging Bootcamp and I couldn’t be more thrilled! 🙂

    xoxoxo
    Nancy

    • You have been really busy, haven’t you?

      I’ve been watching your business stuff happening, Nancy, & it looks SO exciting.

      I can’t wait to see how it goes. You’re taking off this year, my friend. I can feel it 🙂

      xo
      K

  5. Great challenge, Kris! And you have such a great way with words and stories. I agree that imperfection can be perfect! It’s more about what the heart wants and creates.

    I don’t know that much about singing voices but I listen to A LOT of audio books and I’ve become aware of how some voices are easy and soothing to listen to while others are not fun to listen to at all! Voices really can make a difference in how a message is heard and interpreted.

    Thanks for the fun challenge!

  6. Hey Kris! I really loved this story, even though I know it must have been an unbelievably difficult time. I love your voice – the one you speak with and the one you write with – and I’m so glad I found you! I did my own post, just published it, and wow as it a tough one. It’s amazing what asking why – over and over again! – can do to reveal the truth.

    I appreciated all of your checklists and printables to help me through the process. I think my favorite part was revision. I got to move things around and add stuff. I also took a few parts out. 🙂 And I know I really need to work on my editing, but I chose to try to avoid starting every paragraph off with “So” and “Well”. A really bad habit I have! I only had one “so”! LOL

    Thanks for helping me find my GBW…you rock!

    • Revision is one of my favourites too, Nalana.

      It offers so much clarity & a chance to make certain you are reaching for your purpose effectively. I love that you found one thing to pinpoint & work on from your editing. You’re getting ALL the gold stars!

      xo
      K

  7. I’m late… I took my time with this and I wanted to try and make it as error free as possible. And I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t droning on and on. My Mom used to say something her writing teacher had told her. An essay is like a woman’s skirt. It should be long enough to cover the subject, but short enough to keep it interesting. lol So hopefully I accomplished that. 😀

  8. Oooooo perfectly imperfect! It’s such a difficult frame of mind to change especially when it’s drilled into us right through our childhoods with school. We’re encouraged to push for 100% in assignments, be in the A teams for sports, and to colour inside the lines. The conditioning that is embedded into us takes skills to break. It’s a battle I have on a daily basis, but I am slowly chipping away at it.

    I bought a nice new watercolour set the other day because it forces me to embrace imperfection. It takes away a lot of the anxiety that comes with it by allowing myself to do something that forces freedom.

    xo

    • It’s totally a difficult frame-of-mind to catch on to, Tracy – but once you do? It’s magical.

      I look forward to seeing a watercolour Winston 🙂 I actually started doodling on purpose too the other day. It’s a great way to release stress – to do a thing with the express intent to do nothing.

      xo
      K

  9. When you said you had thousands of stories to tell, you weren’t exaggerating…
    Every post you write gives a new puzzle piece for us to get a more complete picture of you 🙂 I somehow missed before that you used to sing.

    Your speaking voice is very pleasant and I would never notice the imperfections you mention… but I understand that as a trained singer, you are able to hear every imperfection and how that must have messed with you as a tender teenager.

    Thank you for sharing this with us.

    • Oh thanks, Nela!

      My speaking voice is not so bad most of the time, really. I did enough voice training that I can keep a nice low register going fairly smoothly, but when I get really excited about something, or when I start to feel feelings, my voice will sort of slip in a very specific way.

      I’ve grown to love it, because it means I’m saying something I need to be saying.
      🙂

      xo
      K

  10. When I read “so I stopped completely” there was such resonance with the story I shared that I felt like I just might have got writing this Great Big Why post right.

    I definitely noticed an improvement during the revision stage where I trimmed a little and was able to form a much stronger conclusion. Not only that but I’ve begun to come to terms with the fact that writing a blog post takes time! So now I might be able to get back to enjoying the writing process instead of trying to go faster.

    Thanks for the challenge, Kris, and see you on Periscope again soon. xx

  11. So it’s definitely not the point, but I laughed so hard with this Kris! As a former band and chorus geek I totally identify with your story here. It wasn’t Carnegie Hall for me, it was somewhere along the 800th concert at Disney world, but you are absolutely right about the damage that the youthful pursuit of someone else’s perfection does to our voices.

    This is beautiful and I am completely stoked to see all the beautiful ways you use your big strong voice over the next year!

    • Thanks Renia!

      We are a special group – the singers and song-makers. It’s a similar weirdness to the online funny-ladies too, I think. And the same dangers are here: we have to guard our imperfections with passion, and let them stay as they are, because if we try to polish them away completely, we will erase some of our best parts.

      Loved your post too. I completely resonate with that feeling of either/or and it makes me BONKERS. Keep on fighting it off, my friend!

      xo
      K

      • I got laryngitis once, the day before I was supposed to be singing. My Mom put me on a speaking ban, because despite that I kept trying to hoarsely whisper. That was one of the hardest days for me, not being able to speak at all. I had to write on a small chalkboard all day, and it was SO frustrating. I had to use small sentences because it’s all that would fit on the board.

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  1. […] my friend, business mentor, and (unknown to her) therapist, Kris from WithaK, about learning to love her broken voice. Her post really hit home with what I was going through. I starting thinking about why I’m […]

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