I have a love-hate relationship with writing. I hate getting started, but I love what I find once I get there.
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.
I walk into the coffee shop with a pristine 3 hours before me. Computer in hand, notes aboard, I waltz in and discover…no seats. Nada. And this is a big place! I set my things down, order my coffee and low and behold, someone gets up and offers me her seat. She is leaving. It is nice comfy chair. Kind of private and out of the way. There is even an electrical outlet to fire me up. Perfect. I’ll take it.
Two hours later I have trudged through a couple paragraphs. Cut and pasted some sections. Pulled out my notes to see what I had planned. Discontent, almost anxiety is building in me. Here I was gonna be so diligent this afternoon and look, nearly nada.
Now there are several empty tables and I wonder…Okay. I pick up all my stuff and haul it over to the crumb-covered deuce. Not the one with the playing board on it but the other one. No outlet here but not a problem. Now I only have about 30 minutes before I really should be heading out to my next activity. I sit, plunk the computer before me, pull up the screen to a nearly new chapter, (It has a working title only) and my hands fly across the keyboard. Ideas are flooding in. Thirty minutes are an instant. I check my watch and consider whether to bypass my next appointment to continue writing.
I, ever the diligent and obedient one, pack up my stuff and move on, making it with about 30 seconds to spare. While I wait, I wonder. What just happened? Did my brain really just respond to the position my body was in? Off, when I was “comfy” and on when I was stiff?
Well, this has possibilities! I always thought my brain controlled my body. But I am wondering if there isn’t some reverse psychology going on. What if my body facilitates my brain? What if putting myself in writing posture opens the door to creative writing?
I know it may just be a conditioned thing. I am used to sitting and writing like that. But later my daughter tells me she can write anywhere. And I have seen this in action – the couch, the bed, the floor. She can probably hang upside down and write. But, apparently, not me.
I am created kinesthetic. Not only do I do things by feel, but apparently I think things by feel. Or at least tune into creative thinking when I am feeling just right, physically. So perhaps it’s not about waiting for inspiration to descend on me; it may be I just need to sit and put hands on the keyboard. Just so. And let the rest take care of itself.