All I Have is a Whisper (author: Melinda Lancaster)

When I think of encouragement and support for writing, I think of technical learning but I also think of what motivates our words. Many of us go through time we wonder if our words matter. I think Melinda Lancaster spoke that well in this piece so asked if she would allow me to repost it here. Her blog URL is listed at the end of the piece.


All I Have is a Whisper

At the beginning of January, I accepted a challenge by Jeff Goins to write 500 words daily for 31 days. Simple and direct it required nothing more and nothing less.

This is a challenge which I should never have had to take.

Writing was once as natural to me as breathing. I did it often. For many years, prior to blogs and “vlogs”, I published short stories and devotionals almost daily. When I wasn’t mining words, I was storing ideas or brainstorming for teaching series. But then something happened to my voice. Or, perhaps, the venue changed around me so suddenly and dramatically that it left me feeling disoriented and lost.

One person in a sea of voices–with laryngitis.

Yes, it seemed that suddenly I lost my voice. I found this to be both frightening and sad. Especially when time didn’t heal it. Doesn’t time heal everything? Or have I just read those words so many times on Facebook feeds and Twitter tweets that I’ve come to take them as fact.

How does someone just stop doing something they have a passion for? It happens all the time. People quit jobs, leave relationships, drop hobbies, etc. Many times they fill the voids in their lives with mind-dulling activities to numb the pain of the loss of something that they love or loved.

I have been guilty of this.

You see, I once loved to write. While I never claimed to be good at it, I truly enjoyed penning my thoughts, feelings, ideas, etc. I was delighted when people responded to my words. Whether it was a handwritten card, conversational email, e-magazine article, or a devotional it seemed that people enjoyed my writing and related to what I shared.

How I miss those days.

The times before the internet became a cacophony of sounds. The years before “churnalism”, blogs, and social media, etc. when people communicated mostly face-to-face. They used email to bridge the gap of distance. Not to promote or sell stuff.  Back then my voice seemed loud and clear.

Not so much these days.

This is why I now struggle to write. Having lost my voice in all of the online noise, it is hard work to try to find it. Can I still type words? Yes, of course. But what should I talk about? There are droves of writers clamoring for people’s time and attention. Many of them have a loud voice and a big audience.

All I have is a whisper.

I know that I need to write first and foremost because I am a writer. It is not for other people that I pen words. I write to fulfill one of the purposes for which I was created. But is it a waste of time if no one hears the words? Wouldn’t my time be better spent doing something else? Have all of the words already been said, re-said, reclaimed and spoken again?

That is what it feels like most days. I, myself, feel as though I’m being stretched and pulled in many directions to keep up with other writer’s content. Why do I bother? Because it is good stuff.  It is useful, insightful, and meaningful. But do I need to add to it? Be another voice in the mix. One more person promoting their ideology in an already overcrowded space?

Sometimes I don’t know.

I have been told that “my voice is needed” but just how can a whisper be heard above the roar of this world? It seems to me that it can only happen if the voice has the right message. Words are good. They are beautiful. Even lovely. But we already have enough words floating around the atmosphere.

What we need are messages.

Life-giving, spirit-stirring, thought-provoking, plan-altering words. I don’t think that just turning oneself over and spilling out will do these days. There is enough of that going on already. For me, as a reader, it gets old unless it happens to meet me “where I am at.”

In the crowd. Longing to be heard. Whispering.

It is hard to imagine that a thin-voiced writer could be heard above all the noise that is already being made. Those kinds of thoughts taunt me daily when I even think about picking up a pen. I am heckled by my own questions. Chided by self-doubt.

And then I remember the words of a song by Tracy Chapman which say “don’t you know, talking about a revolution starts with a whisper.” Hmm, maybe she is on to something. And perhaps, so am I.

Could it be that the volume of your voice doesn’t matter nearly as much as what you have to say.

Is it possible to make an impact with words without being a braggart, liar, or self-promoting fool? I guess that I am about to find out. To do so, I’ve got to find my voice in this season of life. That all begins with a barely audible throaty whisper which says…

“Within me there is a message that matters.”

Melinda Lancaster


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How to Find Your Natural Writing Voice by Lorna Faith

By: Damian Gadal

How to Find Your Natural Writing Voice
by Lorna Faith

“The natural writing process is to write in the 1st person. This is natural – it’s how we tell a story if we’re talking to someone over coffee…” William Zinsser in his Book, On Writing Well, 30th Anniversary Edition: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction

I’ve been doing more writing practice lately. I’m digger deeper. I’m learning to find my natural voice. You might be asking, why would I go through all this time and effort to figure this out?

Because intuitively I know that once I find my natural voice, I will have a new freedom to be me.  In all my storytelling. And I really want that… don’t you?

You might be asking, what exactly is your writing voice?

It’s your style. Your unique way of expressing yourself….with all your beliefs and opinions. It’s how you see the world – your worldview.

Your writing voice is what makes you… you.

Why do you need find your voice?

This search for your voice is really about who you really are. What you want to say or don’t want to say. And how you’re going to say all of that.

The effort you put into that, makes you more comfortable with your style. It takes awhile to find your unique voice. And until you find it, you might be a little uncomfortable with your unique writing style.

Finding your voice allows you to communicate to people in a way that’s uniquely you. It attracts people to you and to your writing.

It’s the only real and long-term way to tell your story.

I’ve learned that all it takes is practice.

So I’ve been digging deeper to find my natural writing voice lately.

Here’s an exercise that Les Edgerton mentions in his book Finding Your Voice: How to Put Personality in Your Writing.

He says to take out three sheets of paper and a pen or pencil. Writing the old way, will help free you to get back to your roots. Now, get completely relaxed and comfortable. Now, go back in your mind to when you were a young child(4-6 years old). Write a page describing a really good memory you have from that time. Allow the feelings and emotions to come up and write about them without censoring. Write this description in the vocabulary of that young child. Use words you would have used then. It’s crucial that you do your best to write in the “language” you possessed back then… not the language you use today.

So I did. Here’s what came of that effort…

Moving Day

I can still smell the dust that floated up to coat my nose that chilly spring day. My little four year old legs slid down from Momma’s soft lap that perched high up in the light blue 1963 Ford car. It seemed like a long ways to the dusty earth below. My stubby hands scraped against jagged rocks as I landed, but any pain I felt was forgotten the moment I looked up. With my jaw hanging open, like the opening of a church door, I stared out at the blanket of brown sprinkled with a little green. The mixture of dull colours and lumpy hills looked like one of my older sisters effort at baking a cake. But at this offering before me I wasn’t worried what I would find under the layers of brown. Instead my eyes widened and happy giggles erupted. I choked on the coat of dust that littered my throat and waited for the coughing to stop before I peered up again. Standing to my feet, I wobbled forward, hoping for a better view of the land that was to be our new home. All this space to run and play was a big change from the small lot and house in town our big family of thirteen had squeezed into. I shivered with anticipation. I wouldn’t forget this adventure or my first face-full of dust. 

I soaked in another big breath. My first smell of freedom.

There was something freeing and so natural as I wrote this in first person, based on memories I had of my childhood. It’s like I experienced a shift from blurry to focussed. My writing went from critical to feeling free to be me.

Go ahead and try this exercise – I think you’ll be amazed by what you discover about you and about your voice. It will be freeing.

There’s other exercises and ideas to help you find your natural writing voice. Next week we’ll work on another exercise to help find your voice.

Have you found your natural writing voice? If that’s something that you’re really wanting to figure out, give these exercises a try… I think you’ll be amazed at the freedom you find in your writing. Let me know if you find these posts and exercises helpful, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

hugs, Lorna

*Photo Credit By: Damian Gadal

*Some of the above links are affiliate links and help to support this blog


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Learning to Fly

So often we label ourselves as deficient not seeing the glory of the wings we have been given to soar. Carryl takes us on the journey as she learns to let her voice fly. It is the same journey we face as writers so I wanted to share it here.

Echoes from the Cave

I’m taking flying lessons.

Actually, I have been for about eight years, I just didn’t know it.

Obviously, it helps to have a good flight instructor and in my completely objective, impartial and in no way biased opinion, I have the best there is.  Lynn has been gifted with a laser-guided, insight capable of skewering a defensive lineman to a brick wall, yet she wields it with the exquisite precision of a sunrise, the solid patience of a mountain stream and the timeless gentleness of an early summer breeze.  She will never force the issue; she will never make you, as a student, follow any path you don’t want to explore.  Personally, I think that would be a little bit like booking a first class trip to Paris but never actually getting off the aircraft, but what the hey.

For all the wondrous things Lynn has taught me, and helped…

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The Write Stuff

Since this blog was created to inspire and encourage writers, in the next while, I am hoping to reblog posts from members of the 500 Word Challenge group that encourage and or inspire us as writers. Tonia has graciously accepted my request to share her post “The Write Stuff”. Thank you for helping me kick this off. If you as readers have read a post in the group that is an inspiration for you, please let me know so that that writer can be invited to highlight their piece here.

The Vast and Inscrutable Imponderabilities of Life

Sometimes, I don’t feel like writing. It’s not that the muse is absent as much as the brain is too giddy. Sometimes, I must search for butterflies. At other times, a horrible malaise comes over me and I have momentary concerns that I am not good enough to do this, and then I say, “Too damn bad. I’m doing it anyway.” Why? Because this is my dream, to be a writer. It’s what I’ve wanted all my life.

I’m lucky because I know this struggle is perfectly normal. I watched my dad do this job (writing/publishing) day-after-day, year-after-year. This is what writers do: they struggle. They show up.

Some days were full of doubt. On those days, my dad looked grey and broken and I worried. He always came around to days of joy and laughter crowing that the “Divine Afflatus” was upon him. On those days, his writing was a breeze.

Though I…

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George Sisneros writes: Hope

♥♥♥ The Heart Of Guatemala ♥♥♥

It was the end of a long day. I just had parent teacher conferences for my boys…all 36 of them. Just 8 boys from the academy were passing all their classes. I didn’t get it. But as I met with the teachers I began to see the mountain I was up against. In the villages of Guatemala, 80% of the students will not pass the 6th grade and my boys were no different. Not yet.

Meet Meybelin. I walk by her home to visit a single mom that we help. Today, as I walked by her house, she ran up and gave me a hug and asked me how I was doing. I mustered up the best smile I could and said, “I’m good Meybelin.” I lied. I was frustrated and my heart was broken for my boys.

I don’t know why, but I asked her if she had gotten her report card. I knew she had. I think it was instinct since I had been asking my boys about their grades all week.

“Yes.” She said with a big smile. And that was it. She didn’t offer how she had done and I was too beat up to ask. Statistics show that even fewer girls than boys graduate from 6th grade. I know Meybelin’s mom and I know she can’t read or write and honestly, selfishly, I didn’t have it in me to see her grades.

A neighbor who was listening stepped in, “Go get your report card and show him mija!”

And off she ran.

When she got back I put my arm around her as I looked at her grades. My eyes welled up. They’re welling up as I type this. Meybelin was quietly and humbly beating the odds. She was not only passing all her classes but she had mostly 80’s and 90’s. I stared at her report card and couldn’t believe it.

I told her that I was so proud of her. I knelt down and hugged her. I didn’t want to let her go. To me she represented hope. Not just for my boys but for all the kids in El Rosario.

I asked her mom if Vonda and I could take them to breakfast on Saturday. I told her that I wanted to reward her daughter for her incredible effort. Meybelin looked up at her mom with a hopeful smile. I’d say she had a bigger smile than usual but she always has a big smile. It’s just who she is. And so, this Saturday, Vonda and I get to have breakfast with the future of Guatemala. With Hope.

As I was walking up the trail from Meybelin’s house, she yelled to me as she almost always does, “Bye George! May God bless you and keep you safe in your travels!”

Today, God spoke to me through a little 3rd grader named Meybelin.

“But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded.” 2 Chronicles 15:7



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Carolyn writes: On Flight


My minister friend Sherry told me a story a while back about the summer she watched two eagles build a nest. She was in Yosemite National Park, and for days she watched the eagles bring their sticks and bits of whatever else they found for the nest they were building for their young.

She told me that eagles put the most uncomfortable sticks in the bottom of the nest so the baby birds will be forced to go upwards to the upper edges of the nest where they will exercise their wings and learn to fly.

She said she didn’t expect to be there long enough to witness the birth of the baby eagle and see its first flight, but she did get to see it.

The baby eagle took off and flew for a while, but then it landed on a nearby cliff, and had to be coaxed for an hour by its parents before it would fly again.

Finally it took off and soared across the enormous sky.

“What a great way to understand the uncomfortable situations in our lives,” I said to my friend. Instead of complaining about those situations, why not see them as merely the uncomfortable sticks that are meant to motivate us to go upward, grow, mature, and finally try out our own waiting wings?

And why remain in the bottom of an uncomfortable nest when we are meant to fly?

When my friend told me this story, I was aware of a growing discomfort with my life and I was feeling a strong need to make changes.

One day I took the advice of a self-help writer I’d discovered, and made a list of everything I hated (the uncomfortable sticks in my life), and everything I loved. I decided to expand my business, keeping only what I loved, reducing what I hated, and adding only activities I loved doing.

As a result I was happier, and I was also able to give others (the young people I work with) the opportunity to exercise their own creative wings and take on a challenge which ultimately brought them joy, meaning, new artistic skills, and confidence (they wrote their musical).

I discovered that part of my calling is to coax young people away from the cliffs of fear and perfectionism they cling to so they can discover who they are, and what they want and love and are meant to do.

As I write, I am aware of the way I still cling like a baby eagle to the cliff of fear and self-doubt.

I’m scared sometimes.

I’m also aware of the many voices that are coaxing me to leave my cliff of fear and self-doubt for the sake of something greater.

As I respond to these voices that are lovingly and patiently calling me away from the cliff of my self-imposed limitations, I experience grace.

Grace and flight.

Sometimes just watching others fly makes me want to fly.
They are having so much fun, I want to join them.

How can I not respond to the voices that call me away from a limited life of fear and misery to a life that is free, loving, and extraordinary?

How can I not want to fly with the wings of eagles?


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Kat writes: Sixty Years an Orphan

So many stories lodged in my head, but of all these there is one I regret not having written, and now the story has been taken to the grave. All I am left with is regret and a few notes.

Why didn’t I return with a dictaphone and make good on my pledge to write an incredible story worthy of being told. I promised yet failed a dear old friend, with whom I had formed a bond. We eagerly looked forward to family gatherings when he would continue telling his tale. Verner’s story is remarkable but now, his only living relatives are unable to fill in the gaps, nor could they for it was a story so detailed only a recorded version could ever do it justice. While the bones of the story are known it is the deep emotive quality missing, the descriptive prose narrated by one who experienced war in all its forms and without those recollections the story will remain a synopsis of Verner’s  life.

Prelude: It was 1999. Verner and I were left to guard the house after all the wedding guests had left for the reception. Neither of us were unduly perturbed to be left guarding the wedding couple’s first home where the wedding had taken place earlier in the day. It had been a long day, the kitchen was bare as they would not return until after their honeymoon but we found a few edibles and carted them, along with our deck chairs onto the roof top where we settled in under the stars with a view to the dark sea beyond, only three streets away. For a while we simply enjoyed the solitude listening to the relentless pounding of the surf, crickets and cicada’s joyful with song while sipping our ice-cold beers. I reached for another cracker and mentioned I was starving. He began his story

In 1941 on the outskirts of the tiny village of Jaunpils in Latvia, Stalin’s army rumbled toward the township eager to flush out suspected spies. The villager’s knew ahead the army was getting closer and Verner recalled how fretful his mother was for their father had not yet returned from a trip to Germany to purchase farming equipment over a year ago.The Russians reputation proceeded them and many families had secreted the women and children to safety but his mother was adamant the stories were lies but still she trembled said Verner when the big lorries rumbled into town.

He recalled ornaments falling from mantelpieces and the very timbers of their home vibrating as the massive lorries wound down the narrow winding alleyways between the houses. He saw fear creep into his mother’s features and knew then, life would never be the same when she pressed an apple and small square of cheese into his hands and whispered. “Now run my boy, hide in the wood heap. Don’t come out until they are gone do you hear?” He kissed her cheek and ran. Before he had  reached the wood heap he heard the front door of their home splinter, loud shouts followed by gunshots, his mother’s screams then silence. The big truck rumbled away. But he had seen her. A terrible sight. His mother’s lifeless body, covered in blood dumped on the back of the truck on top of other bodies, some he knew as neighbors and friends of his parents. He crawled deep under the wood wiggling down until he was well hidden. Hunger and thirst drove him out from his hideaway back to his home.

He didn’t speak for a long while, the memory of what he saw inside him must have been so traumatic he could not bring himself to speak of it, but my sister’s husband later told me there had been a baby, a sister in her basket under the table and the soldiers hadn’t bothered to put her body on the truck with their mother. I do not know if Verner buried his baby sister, he was fourteen so perhaps he did but for days he said, “The Russian’s raped and shot women and girls. Piled their bodies onto trucks but the, the cruelest of all Russians The Bolsheviks left men’s bodies to rot in pools of black blood, food for dogs and flies,” he spat. “Then they left. We, those who had escaped them crept out like frightened mice. Only a handful of old women and a few of us children had survived. Two days later the Germans arrived in Jaunpils.” Sixteen boys, including Verner were taken prisoner.

“I wasn’t frightened of the Germans, I feared the the Bolshevik’s girl more.

The young boys were put to work in the army camp doing chores and running messages. Verner recalled life wasn’t so bad as they trailed the army as it moved into Bavaria. In a bombed out town just over the border two boys found a jar of strawberry jam in the rubble. The German’s made an example of them by shooting nine of his companion’s who had tasted the jam. Verner was thankful later, but wasn’t at the time for he did salivate at the thought of jam, he had been on duty polishing boots and helmets. Only a few days later, he and the five remaining boys including eleven prisoners of war were left in the dungeon of an old ruined castle.

They sourced water by pressing their cheeks to the cold wet stone walls and sucking at the moss. Only one pail of gruel was delivered, once a week however, it was so putrid they chose to eat cockroaches, mice and beetles instead using the gruel as bait. He could not say how long they existed down there in the bowels of the old ruins but it was a long time he said. Long enough for his voice to crack and grow a wispy beard, here he smiled fondly twiddling his long gray-white whiskers.

“Was a long long time girl, tis all I recall. Too bloody long until the American’s came. I couldn’t see when they led us out into the sunshine and for a day I kept my eyes shaded for it gave me a fearsome headache.” Joy gave way to bewilderment

What could  a young man do he said, his parents and sister were gone, he agreed to go on to Germany where the disaffected, the lost and lonely were offered passage to other countries to start a new life. For days he searched the walls of messages in vain hope of finding a message from his father. He contacted the Latvian officials who in turn advised him by letter his family had not survived the war

After the war had ended The International Refugee Organization formed the Group Resettlement to Australia initiative. On March, 2nd 1948 at the port of Bremerhaven, Verner boarded the Greek ship General Black, disembarking at Port Melbourne, Australia on April 27. From here with his worldly goods packed neatly into a brown-cardboard suitcase no bigger than a shoebox, he took the coach to Adelaide to meet up with other repatriates he’d befriended in Germany before securing a place in resettlement program.

Making his way through the throng of new settlers milling around the dock at port Adelaide he heard a familiar voice. His father’s voice, an unmistakable deep baritone. They were reunited for a brief time before his father Mailda Augule, having been a long-term prisoner in appalling conditions (which I think was Auschwitz) died of pneumonia. Verner learned his father too had contacted the Latvian officials and been told his entire family had perished.

Verner headed to far north Queensland where he worked firstly as cane-cutter before taking up an apprenticeship in Ballarat, Victoria in carpentry; he acquired his builder’s license, married in 1955 to a Latvian girl Hilarija and they removed to the western Queensland town of Charleville.

In 2001 Verner, his wife and three adult children returned to Latvia for a holiday. Verner was getting old, had survived two heart attacks and wished to see the town in which he had been born in and spent the first fourteen years of his life

In Jaunpils they were directed by a grinning local who had known his parents to a white-washed cottage on a small farm on the village outskirts

Then Verner paused in the telling of his life story, raised his beer and saluted the heavens

“Drink with me girl for God is gracious in his mercy

When they pulled up in their rental car an old lady tending to her garden walked out the front gate and rushed over to greet them and without a word clasped Verner in a fierce hug.

“I knew you’d come home one day my son.”

Postscript Verner learned after she had been thrown on the truck, injured but still very much alive a Russian took a liking to her. Well hidden under a canvas on the floor in the front of the truck he drove on to the Black Sea where he had been posted. After she recovered she stayed on as his secretary, for she too believed her family had perished. After the war he gave her some money and she returned to the home in Jaunpils.She told him she knew for her favorite plant would produce a single out of season flower around mid January every year. She began to believe it was a sign from God her son had survived the war

Hilary passed away in 2002, followed by Verner in 2010.

In June this year his descendants will once again visit Jaunpils. I hear his laugh, lodged firmly in my memory and ponder will more surprises greet this family when next they visit Latvia

I hear him laugh. “This story isn’t finished yet girl.

Indeed it isn’t, not yet. On an old photograph found in his battered cardboard suitcase after Verner’s death in 2010 has scratched on the back, ‘Verner’s half brother Andrew.’ Which child is Verner? Did his mother remarry? Was it the Russian who saved her life or was Verner’s mother married before she married Mailda

This story has more to tell us…


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