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Finding Your Voice
San Francisco Writers Conference San Francisco Writers Conference
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: San Francisco , CA
Tuesday, September 01, 2020


Mary Rakow

By Mary Rakow

(Mary Rakow will be teaching at the Writing For Change: Worldwide Craft Conference September 12-13. For more information, please visit the Writing For Change: Worldwide website. Or register here.)

Finding our voice is both inward and social. Inward because our voice isn’t about word choice and style. It’s comes from how I experience and process the world, and how you process yours.

We can get at it by deep attentiveness to how we react to big things and small. By asking, What is my truth? What am I hiding? Afraid of?

When we get close to that we can ask, What do I want to put into the world? To change in the world? What are the costs? How much do I care?

We can get at it by noticing our pleasure. What interests us? What inspires us? These questions run through every art form, through every creative endeavor: writing, choreography, painting, sculpture, design, mathematics, astronomy. Creative people in all of these disciplines are inspired by others outside of the discipline they practice.

So we can be inspired by creators in all of these fields.

We don’t imitate their product. We don’t start a restaurant, learn tango, go to flea markets for objects for future collages. Likewise, we don’t imitate a writer we esteem.

We imitate the processes these creators went through and continue to go through to make what only he or she can make. “Finding our voice” is this process. And it never stops. And the process is golden.

Mindfulness accelerates our process. Have space, bandwidth, emptiness inside to be able to be moved by random things and then to notice that feeling of excitement. Practice silence. Empty your visual field. Practice emptiness. This is a form of readiness. This is a form of hospitality to the unknown. Stop being busy. Stop catching up.

Quarantine has helped us. Take advantage of it. Keep the lessons we are learning as we move past this global event. Come out of it changed.

Here are stories of other creators who inspire me lately. They each noticed what they responded to. That’s square one. And that never stops being square one, even 3 books later. Listen to what’s inside. Listen to what gives you pleasure. Locate that in yourself.

Guided by their struggles, determination, courage, we begin to write the page what only we can write. This is not hype. It’s true. And it’s the difference between making art and just making more stuff. Our world is cluttered with stuff and starving for art. Let’s make art together! Here are 5 to enjoy:

-Betye Saar: African American visual artist:


-Curtis Duffy, Michelin starred chef. Great film, “For Grace” online but no longer free. Trailer here:


– Mei Lin and her Nightshade restaurant in LA also good: Chef Mei Lin on her Nightsh#4EA

-Ahmed Abdulmajeed, an Iraqi Refugee and Tango in his life: https://www.houstonchronicle.com/life/article/Iraqi-refugee-turns-to-tango-12909823.php#photo-15545198

-Kwane Stewart a veterinary doctor offering free care for homeless pets: https://www.cbsnews.com/video/veterinarian-offers-free-checkups-for-homeless-pets/#x

There’s no “wrong” source. There’s no “right source.” Notice how you are inspired. It may not be in writing or even in reading. Architects, composers, fashion designers, musicians, chefs, mathematicians, writers, poets all follow what inspires them, period. Just do it! Have fun!

Inspiration is Everywhere! Here are some older sources, but likely still online:

“Cutie and the Boxer” (NY artists Ushio and Noriko Shinohara)

“Objectified” (our relationship to manufactured objects)

“Why we Broke Up” (illustrator Maira Kalman)

“How to Make a Book with Steidl”(Gerhard Steidl,bookmaker)

“Charles and Ray Eames” (design, architecture, life all as one thing)

If you like thinking this way, visit my editing website. It’s based on this idea. www.maryrakow.com. See you soon, onscreen, for SFWC2020!

Good writing to you!

Mary Rakow

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________Mary Rakow headshot

Mary Rakow, Ph.D. comes to writing from advanced degrees in theology from Harvard Divinity School and Boston College. THIS IS WHY I CAME is described as “miraculous,” a “Blakean tour de force,” “rapturously beautiful, tender, complex,” receiving outstanding reviews in The Atlantic, Washington Post, Boston Globe, Ploughshare, Commonweal and Christian Century. www.thisiswhybook.com. Responding to the pandemic’s urgency she published a book of prayer/images on Instagram and FB. Please visit instagram.com/prayers_for_o#480 or www.facebook.com/pg#482 Mary lives in San Francisco where she edits everything but screenplay. “Mary is a legendary editor,” Ilya Kaminsky. Please visit www.maryrakow.com. And good writing to you!

The San Francisco Writers Conference and the San Francisco Writing for Change conference are both produced by the San Francisco Writers Conference & San Francisco Writers Foundation, a 501(c)3 nonprofit. The SFWC Director is Laurie McLean.  For registration help, contact Richard Santos at registrations@sfwriters.org. For SFWC sponsorship opportunities, contact Carla King at Carla@carlaking.com
The SFWC website is: www.SFWriters.org

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