Can a Writer Get Laryngitis?
When you first dabble in writing, no, when you start to get serious about writing, there are questions. What should I write? What am I meant to write? How should I write it? If anyone pretends to have the right answer for that question, run. Run away quickly. Because the most thoughtful and most helpful will tell you, “You have to find your voice.”
Unfortunately, they can’t tell you what it sounds like or even where to go looking. Read, they say. Write, they say. Listen, they say. And if you’re patient, dedicated and diligent, you’ll find it. The “it” is not a thing. It’s a way. A way you are when you write. A feeling you have. A rhythm, a sound, a pitch, a tone. It’s the way you would sing if you could sing. But you aren’t singing; you are writing. And when it pours out of you, it sounds like you.
A voice isn’t something discovered in a classroom, though you can go looking there for clues.
A voice isn’t something to be inherited, though you may discover that others before you have written in their own voices.
A voice isn’t something to be grown exactly, though it can be fertilized and watered by useful application and tender care.
But a voice can go missing.
It is a bit concerning, after all the work it took to discover it, that it can up and leave. Scamper away without a trace. And there you are, searching for something you cannot see, listening for something you cannot hear, calling to something without a name. How do I find you? I miss you. I need you. I am not whole without you.
And so you sit and try not to cry. But it’s so lonely. How odd, when a few short years ago, we hadn’t even met. Now, without you, I’m not whole.
What can I do? Well, write, of course. It goes badly, at first. There are gaping holes with expressions that don’t sound like me. Perhaps they resemble an earlier, stern, factual me. They are gruff and un-inspiring, coarse and ineffective. They read like I’m trying too hard. But trying hard is all I know.
And then I cough a bit and clear my throat, and for just a moment I sound like myself. My voice! It’s still there! Perhaps I have just had a case of writer’s laryngitis – inflamed vocal cords of the writerly sort. It will take some time for those to mend. Will my voice be the same when it comes back?
All I know for sure is that I will recognize it when it comes within shouting distance. Now I see that it must be free to come and go as it pleases. How glad I am to welcome it home – for as long as it will stay.