DAILY PROMPT: List all the reason you must write. What will happen if you don’t write? Why is it important to tell your story? Why do you need to release your voice, your ideas, your pain and wisdom onto the page? Keep your pen moving and don’t worry if what you’re writing is true, provable, justifiable or legitimate. Just stay curious. 6 minutes.
Category Archives: Voice
There is a commonly held theory that writers are born not made, that the soul is pre-programmed in some off-site metaphysical lab before being sent through to fulfill its creative destiny. This bit of mythology is similar to the thinking that royalty is a divine gift. Like any caste system, it works well for those that enjoy the privileges of the upper echelons and want to continue to do so. It also relieves its members of any personal responsibility – You’re tapped for greatness or your not. Nothing you can do.
Some art forms require a predisposition. To succeed at ballet, for instance, a basic structural alignment is needed. My flat feet and pronated ankles, for example, have sidelined me for the ballerina game.
Writing, though… That’s a very different playing field. There are benchmarks for skill, but even those are relative. Why we like a certain writer is highly personal, making it difficult to prove that one writer is better than another, no matter the level of skill. It all comes down to how it falls on the ear and the heart.
For this reason, anyone can become a beloved writer. That’s right. I said it. Anyone. Because skill can be acquired and voice can be released. Both take fierce dedication, years of work and countless hours of practice. But, we won’t engage that work or practice if we believe that this gift of inspired writing comes from outside ourselves.
Think of any writer you love: You wonder at their skill, precise use of language, ability to weave a complex plot or they way they create a vivid environment and land you right in the middle of it so that you actually itch from the cut grass and sweat from the humid heat. Well, none of this would matter if you didn’t connect first to the voice.
What is voice? It’s the sum of all your parts – your culture, upbringing, brain chemistry, relationships, preferences, scars, triumphs and failures. It’s your sound. And like any instrument, your sound is unique based on the maker, the materials, even the weather you’ve been exposed to. And like any musician, the more you practice and strengthen your skills, the more range and virtuosity you will find in your own voice. The more distinct your voice is, the more likely it is to find an audience.
DAILY PROMPT: Finish the sentence, “My voice…” 10 min.
Extra credit: Think of a writer’s voice that gives you thrill chills. You might even want to read a favorite passage before finishing the sentence, “His/Her voice…” 10 min.
Years 6-10 my Easter week was spent in Bay Area with my maternal grandfather. Except that he was always working, so I really spent it with his wife, Gramma Lee, and Cousin Debby, her granddaughter. Debby and I got along great and we got a lot of mileage out of having the same name. However, Gramma Lee and I never managed to scratch out any common ground. It was always clear that she found me odd.
It was fine, though, because Gramma Lee tirelessly hauled us from one activity to another – Amusement parks, movies, playgrounds, botanical gardens – and I was introduced to a variety of delights that didn’t exist back home . One of these adventures involved going to the mall to select a fancy Easter dress, which was a Very Big Deal. This was back before tutus, fairy wings and sparkly shoes were a part of every little girl’s basic wardrobe.
Afterward we stopped at the tee-shirt kiosk – a standard feature of any mall in the 1970′s, along with Orange Julius – and Grandma Lee invited us each to pick out a decal from the hundreds of colorful images on the walls. There were the standard bearded “Keep on Truckin’” dudes, Flaming skulls and playboy bunny silhouettes, as well as a wide variety of puppies, kittens and unicorns. Cousin Debby chose a sparkly teddy bear, arms flung open for a hug. Hearts floated all around the chubby little bear, as though he were a love-bubble machine. I was a fan of teddy bears, and on another day I might have chosen similarly, but on this day, I was seduced by an image of a different order.
I chose… Mickey Rat.
It was obvious to me the minute I saw it that his long segmented nose sprouting wiry hairs and extending well beyond his deviant smile, that his was the tee-shirt I wanted to wear across my bony little chest until the image flaked and peeled from too many washings.
But, I knew by the uncomfortable silence following my choice that I had just confirmed Gramma Lee’s suspicion that I was destined to become a drug addict, a sex worker, a gun for hire or some combination of all three.
I wasn’t trying to be rebellious or shocking. I didn’t know what to call it then, but I now realize I was having my first exciting experience with a successful juxtaposition. Somebody had taken an iconic image and cross bred it with another image to make a new idea, and it was flipping a switch in my budding storyteller’s mind.
Social training is important. The adults in our lives are obliged to teach us acceptable, normal behavior in obeisance to an ancient impulse – keep your progeny from getting killed by the pack. But, if Mickey Rat is your normal, you may have a harder time blending. Writers and artists serve a different function in the pack, but it’s an important function. The trick is to understand the social expectations, without becoming alienated from your impulses. It’s true that it puts you somewhat on the outside of the group, but that’s the only way that you, as an artist, can provide perspective. And that’s your job.
DAILY PROMPT: Write about all the times you fell short of normal and re-context those experiences in this new light. Set the timer and finish the sentence, “I knew I was different when…” as many different ways as you can in 10 minutes. Feel free to post an excerpt of the results in a comment on this blog entry.