The Writers Voices Inside my Head
I’ve been writing for a while now. I am not a professional, having one (don’t laugh mean people) published Essay to my credit. But I’ve been messing with writing on and off all my life. The last several years, I’ve been taking online classes, reading piles of books on writing, all helpful, and, most importantly, spending time at the keyboard, writing. I even have a lump, perhaps a callous, on my wrist right where it rests on the base of my laptop, which I can photograph if you don’t believe me. Is there such thing as a writers callous? I need to look that up. Anyways, through this process, I’ve learned a few things.
First of all, I’m too old and broke to get an MFA, so just give it up already.
Second, You don’t need an expensive MFA to be a writer. If you don’t believe me ask Ann Patchett, who I think has one, but advises others (This is The Story of a Happy Marriage) that it’s not necessary and if you have to borrow money and go into debt, don’t do it. That was refreshing news for me, but if I were a young person and planning on going to college anyways, I would probably do it. As a writer, it’s easy to feel inferior without one, is all I’m saying.
Third, and most importantly, you need to find your own voice. This is sometimes tricky.
Finding my voice has taken me a while, and it is still not fully developed, me being a late bloomer in all things literary. Understandably, we all want to write like our favorite writers but I don’t think it’s wise to try–at all. Here’s why: One of my favorite authors is Wallace Stegner, a Pulitzer Prize winning novelist, writing professor and environmental champion who was born in the early 1900’s and passed away in 1993, about the time I discovered him. His writings are deep, relationship oriented works, even when writing about the environment. His work is also kind of manly, but in a more intellectual style than, say, Hemingway. Another favorite is Terry Tempest Williams, an eloquent, soft-spoken environmental writer whose beautiful prose and observations can bring me to tears. Also, an intellectual. I can’t meld those two styles in my head let alone my writing, and I am neither manly (don’t snicker), nor eloquent and soft-spoken, although I am an intellectual. (You doubt me? Here’s the proof: I don’t watch Reality TV. So there.) And while I wish I could write like either one of them, it’s best not to even try. I just want to read them and be inspired, and then write something inspired, in-my-own-voice. And yes, I am a tree-hugger. And yes, I use too many hyphens.
There are so many authors I admire and appreciate, that I cannot possibly embody all their styles without becoming a totally schizoid writer. I want to write deeply spiritual creative non-fiction like Maya Angelou, but I’m really more of a David Sedaris, irreverent eccentric wacky family and all kind of essayist. My poems, much to my chagrin. sound more like Helen Steiner Rice than Ginsberg or Frost. When it comes to fiction, which is definitely not my forte, think Dr. Seuss without the rhyming.
So it’s a struggle. But I’m starting to hear my voice in this stuff. I’m slowly emerging. I hope I hurry up and bloom soon because my winter years are breathing their icy cold breaths down the back of my neck and making me all goose bumpy. Then again, it might just be cellulite. And who knows if I will ever have any commercial success from my writing. Luckily, it’s not why I do it. Luckily,I have a husband with great retirement benefits.
And that’s the other thing I’ve learned. You really have to love to write and be compelled to do it, because, like every art form, you will probably do a lot of it before you will ever, and you may never, earn a penny doing it. Artists, writers and musicians all work more than most people will ever know, for nothing. Imagine if you got a job making burgers, and they told you, “You will get paid once people start paying attention to your burger making, and really, really like them, which could take seven or eight years,” and you will have some idea of how much you have to love this stuff to keep doing it.
But I am beginning to write more consistently in my own voice. It’s fun, and it gives me some hope. So maybe I’m not so schizoid. Then again, there is a little late-blooming bi-polar and anxiety disorder in the family, so it could be I’m just hallucinating and not really writing witty little creative blog posts at all, but banging out labels on a Brother P-touch, like some serial killer letter to the editor writer person, who happens to be kind of literary, which, hey, sounds like a great plot for a novel.
Told ya I sucked at fiction.