Monday, March 25, 2013

Dave Grohl on Voice, by Tamara Hogan

Dave and me, hanging @ The
Experience Music Project, Seattle
Anyone who knows me knows that I'm a massive Dave Grohl fangirl. (Grohl was the drummer for Nirvana, and created Foo Fighters.)  So when I heard Dave was keynoting South By Southwest 2013, I blocked out an hour on my day job's Outlook calendar so I could watch the webcast uninterrupted.

Dave didn't disappoint. In an f-bomb-laden, highly personal speech, and sporting ridiculously sexy reading glasses, Dave brought us along on his personal journey, one in which he was inspired by punk music, protected his independence, and developed and nurtured his individual voice.

Voice. It's an aspect of art that musicians and writers share. It's a tone, or a worldview, that makes a piece of work - or a body of work - belong uniquely to its creator.   

"There is no right or wrong, there is only your voice. Cherish it. Respect it. Nurture it. Challenge it. Stretch it and scream until it's (expletive) gone."

"Am I the best drummer in the world? Certainly not. Am I the best singer/songwriter? Not even in this (expletive) room. But I have been left alone to find my voice."

"I am the musician, and I come first." These words, spoken with such assurance, shrilled into my very bones.

I am the writer, and I come first. Sometimes, on days when I feel like the tiny cog whose furious spinning keeps the other, larger cogs moving, it can be easy to forget that. Without a manuscript - a good manuscript - the whole machine grinds to a halt.

I could quote from this keynote for hours, but I think I'll just let the man speak for himself. Here's Dave, being all hot 'n wise 'n awesome. The video is 49:32, and the language is NSFW, unless you're a telecommuter like me, and can listen to whatever you damn well please. ;-)

Are there lessons that we as writers can learn from musicians, and publishing learn from the music industry? If so, what do you think those lessons are? 

Is there a writer whose voice you adore? Which book do you recommend I read to get a taste?   


  1. I really like Nora Roberts's voice. It gets into my head and rattles around in there. Fortunately I write historicals, which are vastly different from her books or I wouldn't be able to read her when I was working. I have found that every author whose work I read again and again has a voice that fixes itself in my head.

  2. Ooh, Shana, speaking of fangirl-dom...OMG Nora. I started reading her back when I was in college, and I'm proud to say I own every book she's written. In the one conversation I've been privileged to have with her, I thanked her for teaching me everything I know about dialogue tagging.

  3. I think one of the first things I was told way back when I writing classes was to find my voice. Enjoyed your post.

  4. Amelia, one of the things that resonated for me about Grohl's speech is the story of how he was just...left alone to find his voice. I think I, by sheer dumb luck, experienced something similar, because when I finally found the guts to write my first manuscript, I just {{shrug}} started writing. What came out on the page wasn't critiqued to within an inch of its life, or work-shopped to death. TASTE ME came out organically, slowly, naturally. It wasn't until a reviewer asked me how I'd developed my voice that I was even aware of possessing one.

  5. Love Nora. And she's just as charming as her books. I've had the opportunity to sign with her, and I'll never forget this.

    I walked up to her after the signing and thanked her for having me. Ever so calm, cool, and collected,(which I wasn't, but I had to be) I said, "By the way, I forgot to thank you for something else."

    "And what's that?" She looked at me, puzzled.

    I give her a little arm bump. "Thanks to you, I'm right next to you on the shelf." (Roberts-Roberts)

    She laughed and said, "I'm really glad I could help you out."

    She's a pro. Very inspirational.

  6. Great story, Victoria! Now, if I could only meet Tami Hoag... ;-)

  7. I adore Nora's voice and I am amazed that she can channel a distinctive difference for her JD Robb books. I was intrigued by your post, thank you for the insight.

  8. Elf2060, I'm also amazed by Nora's ability to create such distinctive, and different, voices for her Nora work and her J.D. Robb work. The woman is a freak of nature in the very best way. ;-)