Writers talk a lot about finding and using our voices. And many of the writers I hang out with talk about using our voices both as writers and as women. Anyone who calls herself a writer–who has taken the leap of throwing her voice out to the world in permanent form through the written word–has to have found a voice of some kind. But using that voice and gaining an audience can be challenging in a world that trains women to be seen and not heard. A world that values the shallow, comfortable observation of a static self. A world overrun with noise.
Noisy world or not, the writer is given the gift of a voice, and as with any gift, she’s compelled to use it. Not only for her sake, but also for the sake of others–her audience and those whose voices she represents with her own.
In about a month and a half, InterVarsity Press will release my book Troubled Minds: Mental Illness and the Church’s Mission. As the title implies, this is a book about our collective responsibility to people with mental illness. In this book, I tell a bit of my mother’s story, about living with schizophrenia. I tell stories of my dad and my siblings. I share stories from people who have shared with me about their pain, sorrow, triumphs, and needs–all in the hope that Christian people will listen and minister in Jesus’ name to people in that same kind of pain, sorrow, triumph, and need. Sitting by myself in my basement, typing to an unseen audience, I felt the weight of speaking not just with my own voice, but also with the voices of so many people I do and don’t know.
Sending my voice out there for the world to hear is scary. Writing to give someone else a voice is double-scary. I funneled multiple voices into a combination that I hope will speak clearly–yes, ultimately through my voice. Sometimes I had to interpret and synthesize what they said and go ahead and assert my voice to say what I think people need to hear. I had to listen to others’ voices and know when to tune them out. I had to be willing for my own perspective and hypotheses to meet challenge when others speak. And sometimes, because I’m the author, I had to overrule everyone and say what I think God wants me to say.
Ultimately this book will fall short of saying all that it should say, and I won’t be able to represent every voice that should be heard. But if God has given me a voice and a chance to speak, I must use it to speak also for those without an instrument for their voices.
© 2013 Amy Simpson.