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how to find your voice

  1. Start as soon as you slide down the birth canal. Be loud and unaware.
  2. Alternate wailing with intent listening. Coo a little.
  3. Make all the sounds your body will muster. Be delighted.
  4. Pay close attention to those who listen to you and respond. If possible, store up their wonder for future nourishment. You’ll need it.
  5. Sing as much as you speak. There doesn’t need to be much difference between the two.
  6. Go to school. Keep being loud, but try to remember the intent listening thing you did before.
  7. If teachers or classmates tell you to stop singing/humming/whistling, politely do. Once they’re out of earshot, start up again.
  8. Never, ever, ever just mouth the words.
  9. When adolescence strikes, everything will feel different. Your voice will do messy things. It will still be beautiful. Try to believe that.
  10. If by some horrible chance you hit adolescence without finding your voice, don’t fear. It will be harder, but you can do it.
  11. Remember that your voice is a muscle. It responds well to repetition and challenge.
  12. If you have a big, wild voice, learn to sing lullabies.
  13. If you have a medium-sized voice, feed it jazz or opera or gospel: whatever feels most extravagant to you.
  14. There are no small voices.
  15. Learn vocal technique, then forget it.
  16. Breathe as though you’re inhaling the scent of lilacs, or the ocean, or pizza.
  17. Love the sound of your own voice.
  18. When you can’t love the sound, listen to someone else.
  19. Sing with others.

Thanks to the marvelous Krista Bremer, whose Sun magazine retreat prompt led to this piece.