Who are your people?

Most of us find our own voices only after we’ve sounded like a lot of other people.  ~ Neil Gaiman

I’ve been thinking lately about cultural traits and the multiple cultures we each belong to. The number and variety are surprising! I am, or used to be, a member of these cultures:

  • Southwest
  • Artist
  • Writer
  • Feminist
  • IT worker
  • Ex-pat
  • American

And this is just the list I can think of on the spot. I’m certain there are more.

These cultures have shaped my values and voice in a myriad of ways, and the more I write the more their complexities are revealed.  For example, when I lived overseas, I got in the habit of speaking more clearly-constructed English, with fewer idioms, to increase my chances of being understood. This also comes in handy with my many foreign-born information-technology (IT) coworkers to ensure there’s no confusion in our work together.  And, there are so many other traits of ex-pat culture that foster seeing the world differently and relating to others in new ways.

Your mix of cultures is a powerful factor that shapes the uniqueness of who you are and your one-of-a-kind voice.

Speaking of voice, a quick tangent: An interesting piece was published two weeks ago by the New York Times, called What Our Words Tell Us, which notes trends in US English usage over many decades. The author, David Brooks, starts out with the rise in American individualism based on usage of words like “personalized”, “unique”, “community”, and “united”, then illustrates other trends in American linguistics over time. (He has a powerful message about the trend of American demoralization, if you’re interested.)

Which cultures do you claim?  How have they shaped your voice? Have you been writing long enough to see language trends that reflect personal shifts?  Please start a discussion and/or share your comments below.

Also see Color of our words

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Categories: pep talks, writing tips

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  1. New is a Relative Term: On Writing Memoir & a Prompt | Christi Craig - July 10, 2013

    […] that have taken up station throughout our journey. Christine Hauser highlights this in her post, “Who Are Your People?” on Flash […]

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