The gift of voice through writing


By Betty J. Slade | PREVIEW Columnist

I stood before our writers’ group and asked them if they remembered when we first met nine years ago. We talked about having a voice in our writing. None of us knew what that meant or how our voices sounded on paper.

I remember saying then, “Start writing and you will discover your voice.” It was true, but today I’ve changed my mind. It’s not your voice you bring, it’s your life you bring to your pen and paper. It’s not the gift of voice you’re sharing, but the gift of breathing and living. Not what you do, but who you are.

And, yes, we all have certain skills others might not have. We bring ourselves to the game of life, just like the game of football. We follow the same rules; there is the ball, the goal, the field, positions, and four quarters. It’s the same game, same positions, different players.

I backed the voice concept with an example from football. We are a football family. We can hardly wait for the season to start. My Sweet Al, our daughter and I watched all the episodes of the 2020 “Quarterback” docuseries. We were captivated.

The “Quarterback,” an eight-episode documentary, took us inside the huddle and showed what it takes to be a Patrick Mahomes with the Kansas City Chiefs, a Kirk Cousins with the Minnesota Vikings or a Marcus Mariota with the Atlanta Falcons.

In the writers’ meeting, I zeroed in on Mahomes, the quarterback. In the playoffs, he jumped up and down, yelled and led the momentum for the team and fans. He said he didn’t mind getting hit; sometimes it felt good. He loved playing the game.

When asked how he was doing, he’d reply, “I’m tired, but I’m good.” 

He also brought attitude. He chanted, “I’m here, I’m here, I’m here,” or “I did it, I did it, I did it.” 

He played the game like he was playing at the game, a rhythm unmatched. At the end of the fourth quarter, he was still bobbing up and down, tired but didn’t show it.

The commentator pointed out his younger days were all about baseball. His father, a professional baseball player, taught Mahomes to swing the bat. Videos of him at 4 years old, swinging the bat over and over, set his life’s work for sports. Later he turned to football.

The television spokesperson showed an X-ray of Mahomes’ spine. He said he had a strong spine like no other and could twist it without changing his body’s position. He could look straight ahead, position himself, twist his spine and throw the ball to a player off to the side and make it look easy. It’s a practiced play he did over and over. It looks like a throw-away ball, but the ball landed exactly in another player’s hands. The audience all roar in unbelief at the ability of Mahomes.

Not only a strong spine, but strong fortitude. Remember when he injured his ankle? He was eight seconds from halftime. The coach begged to take him off the field and have his ankle X-rayed, but he refused to leave the game. He’d have X-rays during the half.

That playoff game took him to the Super Bowl. Once again nursing an injured ankle at the Super Bowl, one of the other team members rolled over on his leg and injured it again. He kept playing and took his team to victory.

Then there is Cousins. I was touched by his humility. He didn’t bring any praise to himself. It was all about the team, getting the job done. He didn’t bounce off the field but held his bruised ribs, going straight to the table for his physical therapist to work on his body.

All week, he was getting his body ready and his mind fit to play the game. It wasn’t about showing up on Sundays to play, it was getting fit all week to be ready for Sunday’s game.

Cousins was given the Athletes in Action/Bart Starr Award. It was created to honor the NFL player who best exemplifies outstanding character and leadership in the home, on the field and in the community.

Information about the Bart Starr Award posted on YouTube reads, “The Award is named after Bart Starr who, in addition to being in the NFL Hall of Fame, was selected as MVP in Super Bowls I and II. Mr. Starr is an individual of impeccable character who has served his family and community faithfully through the years and is a role model for athletes and business people alike.”

When Cousins received the award, he talked about being a Christian. At the end of the day, he said football is just a game, but it’s how you maintain your life. He hoped to be a good husband, father and be a kind person with character. Receiving the Bart Starr Award for his outstanding character, Cousins said it was the most meaningful award he could have ever accepted.

The position of quarterback is the same, but the players are different. I reminded the writers they can’t compare themselves with other writers. It’s their life they bring to their writing.

Final brushstroke: Writers write when no one is looking. We work in solitude. We give chunks of time. We write when others play. A typo will be the first thing someone will point out. Yes, our bodies are not getting beat up, but our egos suffer. Our lives are being exposed and X-rayed to our core. We bring our voice and ourselves to the computer. Hopefully, the world sees us with good character and determination to stay in the game.

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