Finding Your Voice

I am the appointed go to when my kids need English papers edited and critiqued.  Usually for Chelsea’s (the oldest) papers, it is a matter of catching grammar mistakes and showing her a spot or two that needs clarification.  But for the most part her writing is pretty clear and flows fairly well.  Now Maggie (the youngest) has started coming to me for help on her papers.  She started high school this year so she has to step up her game a little.  In both cases the writing is still a bit rough, a bit raw, it lacks refinement.  But you can see the difference in their ages when you look at the writing style each of them follow. 

I recently went over a paper for Maggie and it struck me dead on how much she still has to grow.  The sentences were there and followed proper form, but it was like digging a carrot out of your garden.  They were a bit rough and needed polish to shine as well as they could. 

Writing is craft.  It takes time and persistance to learn.  You have to work on the basics day after day to refine your skills.  It is only through this constant work that eventually your writing voice will appear.  This voice is distinctly you, no one else will ever exactly copy it.  It is possible to mimic it in some ways but just as your signature it is part of the individual that does the work.  With both of my girls I can see how they are at different stages of finding their writing voices. 

What does this have to do with beer and brewing (I know you’re thinking it)?  The simple answer is everything.  Brewing, just like writing, is a craft.  It is a learnable skill.  A skill that requires attention and time.  You have to strive and stretch yourself, learning the basics over and over till they become second nature.  Only when you no longer have to think about the basics, that is when your voice will finally come free. 

A brewer’s voice is shown in the beer.  No two brewer’s beers are ever exactly the same.  There is subtle differences even with the same ingredients, the same process.  They may come close, sometimes even so close it is almost impossible to tell.  The differences will still be there. 

In commercial brewing where consistency is a major thing, it is still possible to protect the product through blending.  Instead of relying on the changes that can happen from batch to batch, brewer to brewer, different batches can be blended to ensure consistant products.  But I digress…

There was a time when the apprentice system was in place.  In this style of learning it was possible to learn a craft under the tutelage of a master.  In this system the novice learned everything the master had to teach.  It was a system where the student absorbed so much of the teacher that the students voice mimiced the masters almost perfectly.  Many times it would be impossible to tell the two apart.  it was only then that the student was allowed to move on, only then could the student begin to express their own voice. 

This does cause me to wonder.  In the system now, the student not only needs to learn and master the basics but at the same time they must find their own voice.  Is it possible that this has hindered our ability to properly master skills?  Is this a reason why factory made soul less “stuff” that was once made by artisans and built to last, is now “ok” but not really built to last? 

Time for a pint…

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6 thoughts on “Finding Your Voice

  1. I can see where you're going with this thought. I think craft beer is just like small batch wine makers. The large corporations that produce hundreds of thousands of bottles aren't trying to develop a voice, they are trying to continue a brand. People buy their beer because they know exactly what to expect from it. People who drink a craft beer or who home brew are searching for adventure and possibilities. One batch may not me exactly like the one before. You can get a personality into a small batch beer that just isn't profitable in an offering from a large brewery.

  2. Exactly. That is the true element of any craft, finding the point where you can express your artistry or enjoy the artistry that is inherint the item. Something that can never be done on a larger scale.

  3. I think there's definitely a link bewteen what you've pointed out. As a former English teacher, I always felt it was such a struggle to get students to mastery level writing. There are many reasons for this, but primary among those reasons is how everyone is in such a hurry. The world seems to have forgetten that great writing, great beer, great anything takes time.

  4. Sadly, the death of craftsmanship came at the cost of quick and easy. Why should we build skills and mastery in making something when we can find a machine that will do the work for us.

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