Whether you are surrounded by the singing of a lamp or the sounds of a storm, by the breathing of the evening or the sighing of the sea, there is a vast melody woven of a thousand voices that never leaves you and only occasionally leaves room for your solo. —Rainer Maria Rilke

Many Voices

Our lives are full of voices—the voices of those we love, of those we despise, of those we barely know, of the air, of the sea, of the rain, of movement in the earth below us, voices of animals, voices of birds, voices of our ancestors, voices of memory—the many sounds of the past and present that we carry with us and exist among. Every one of us is perfectly alone, living a unique life that only we experience. But we also live in community with a planet full of voices.

Writing is the act of trying to make sense of these voices and to find meaning in their stories. We are a single story. We are many stories. We are a part of an infinite number of stories.

For Ourselves, For Others

There are times that the communication is personal, and the story we write is for our eyes alone. This is work in which we try to make sense of our own thoughts and experiences and extract a meaning that gives context to events in our lives.

There are other times that writing is an attempt to reach beyond ourselves, to communicate what we see in the world and find others who see it the same way. All of this understanding requires deep compassion for ourselves and others, and a willingness to hear their voices.

This is why writers are so special to me—the writers I have known are always those engaged in the challenging process of understanding themselves and others. It’s more than a single project; it’s a way of life.

This week’s craft lesson is about polyphony, or the sound of many voices in a single work.