I met this guy when I read his book, Chronicles of a Clocksmith, for a Read 2 Review. (If you haven't read my review this book, look at the tabs at the top of this page and select the one for kids.) He has a way of writing that I really enjoyed AND an imagination that peeked my interest. And now, he has joined us here on Between the Bindings to share some of his insight.
First things first - I am not a writer. To be a writer takes years of dedicated toiling, an endless quest towards tightening, advancing, and improving one's skill set. I simply have neither the talent nor the constitution to ever dare call myself a writer. Plus it seems that to call oneself a writer today takes a certain panache, a je ne se quoi so to speak, that I could never pull off. Even despite my attempts at tweed and the occasional pre-noon scotch.
No - I believe I would much rather be labeled a 'storyteller.' But determining whether that means I am a decent 'storyteller' or a poor 'storyteller,' only time and perhaps loyal grandchildren will tell.
But to those passionate about writing, and to those determined to enter into the professional world of perpetual heartbreak and the endless devouring of souls, I will say one thing that may (but probably not), help you in your journey.
Find your voice.
Ugh - I know. I hate even typing this (notice I didn't say "writing this"). It's probably one of the most over-used phrases used in the writing blogosphere. But there is a simple reason why this phrase constantly pops up in nearly every post and every 'How To' book out there. Because it is so true.
It is so true, in fact, that it is mainly why I am actually terrified of reading anyone else's writing. It sounds quite strange, and I'm not saying that I am at all proud of this fact. But the simple truth is that I am deathly afraid of reading other works because:
- I can't bear the thought that my "original" idea/phrase/sentence structure has already been deployed, only deployed with much more skill and grace than I could ever muster and
- 2. That after reading a truly talented and professional writer, my heart will no longer be into whatever piddly story that I had decided to tinker with on that particular day.
I am fully aware that the above scenario depicts a far more deep-seated issue than my above delineation, but what can I tell ya.
But despite my insecurities, this should never prevent you from finding your thing, your knack, your je ne se quoi. Be inspired by other works, but never try to duplicate the voice that lay within, even if you think you are being clever. You can never duplicate the moment during which the originals were crafted. The smell in the air that the author experienced while typing the first paragraphs, their day leading up to the words being typed. Their conversations had with friends, and the arguments they had with their families. To copy a "style" is idiotic and it will not just turn out like a bad "copy of a copy." It will turn out like old congealed cheese from a fast-food hamburger stuck to the very wrapper from whence it came. Glued and intertwined, stale and plastic.
Dammit now I'm hungry.
Find your voice first, and then work on your writing. Beautiful sentence structure and mind-numbingly perfect grammatical composition is admirable, but if your story is dull, then really what does it matter? You might as well end up a beat writer for your local daily's obit section. But putting your own flair and spin into a concept can make even something dull as an empty peanut butter jar seem interesting.
I remember in University how I received Cs and Ds in English Comp 101. It was quite humbling as all throughout high school I had excelled in English especially, and was recommended by several of my teachers to writing conferences, programs, etc. So when random Gen X English 101 Comp Lit TA continuously beat me back with yet another red capital D across the front of yet another nearly-failed assignment, I grew depressed. What had changed so much in one 6-week summer break? And then I grew bitter. Who was she to tell me that poetry should be written a certain way? And then I grew resentful? Who was she to tell me that my writing style was not conventional and proper? And then I grew angry.
I did not write for several years. Nearly 12 in fact. Until one day I suddenly felt like doing it again. And not only that, but I felt a new confidence in my style that only someone at 33 could feel, and more importantly, that a college student with broken pockets and a broken spirit could not. So there you have it - the foundation of "my voice."
I will never say that I am a writer. This title belongs to those who have much greater skill and professionalism than I. But I am happy to report that I feel pretty good about where my "voice" is at these days. And only time and loyal grandchildren will tell if it has helped, or hindered, the stories that I have attempted to tell.
I like what you have said here - and I thank you so much for joining us here on The Gal. :)
Until next time, y'all...