Creative Control

Miscellaneous Mental Musings of an Emerging Artist

Voice Lesson.


Occasionally I realize that I’m carrying too much ballast, so after an exhaustive search, I find the offending item and toss it overboard, and miraculously, the balloon begins to ascend again.

I have a complicated relationship with my writerly voice. I’m adept at wielding it and yet fearful of becoming so attached to it that it becomes a crutch or a cliche. I push myself to experiment with my styling and tone so as not to grow stale, and I fail to realize that the expiration date of interest in what I have to say or how I have to say it differs for me than it does for other people, because I’m perpetually reading or hearing it.

In a way, I am apprehensive about having a voice at all…I maneuver out of traps that nobody is setting, convinced that somebody is going to look me square in the eyes and say “You? I know you. Your voice does this. Your themes are these. You always manage to find a place for that in your work. I’ve got you figured out, and now that I have you figured out, it’s clear to all assembled that you’re a fraud.” So I preempt the targeting by considering what may or may not be something I overuse and then deliberately turn it on its ear.

While doing all this defensive posturing, however, sometimes I neglect to actually advance. I parry but never thrust. Petrified to have my constants pointed out, I step too cautiously, over-guess my progress, and ultimately stymie myself in one place for weeks at a time.

It’s strange and silly, because I think of the writers I read and admire and know that they have a consistency within themselves that’s noticeable enough at times to inspire parody. You know what Mamet sounds like. You know how to spot Tom Stoppard. The telltale signs that Neil Gaiman has been here are all along the roadside.

I had a good morning with my fiction core yesterday, and part of why I was able to do so was that I found the sandbag, clearly labeled THIS SOUNDS LIKE SOME OF YOUR OTHER WORK, and I hurled it into the fog, watched it vanish from sight. I can say to myself that it’s all right. I can say to myself that plenty of artists made entire careers out of variations on a single idea, in part because the original idea was a good one and because they trusted that there were enough people interested in the idea to constitute audience.

The story is strong and the narrative voice serves it well. If that voice also serves another story, it is something to be celebrated, not retreated from.

I rise past a different horizon, slightly closer to a clarity where all stars are visible, where the lightness in my head is not suffocation but intoxication. I close my eyes and steer the balloon, bobbing and dipping in the atmosphere…relaxed and crackling, like ball lightning in a block of ice. This will be just fine. This will be just fine.

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This entry was posted on September 26, 2008 by in Mental Health, Writing.
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