On Finding Your Voice, sort of
People keep asking my advice lately.
Well, I guess it’s fine. But I’m just a pair of eyeballs posing as a human being. Keep your salt shaker handy to liberally season anything I say. I will not be held responsible for the stupid things you do with my advice.
On having a voice:
When I was in writing classes people kept asking the teacher about how to develop their voice. It confused the hell out of me. What is a “voice?” As long as you’re not trying to be anyone else, you’re yourself right?
Unfortunately, I was so confused by the question I never paid attention to the answer. Or maybe the teacher just bullshitted so I forgot what they said. Bullshit answers tend to lay pretty light in the brain. You can remember them talking but not the words they spoke…
I think, though, that I finally learned what they were asking. They were still kids. They were asking the teacher who they were. Poor kids! Poor teacher!
I don’t know much, and everybody is different. What works for me may not work for you. But lately I keep hearing people talking about their inability to be creative. Not having a voice is a similar complaint, in a way. At least, the solution is the same.
Empty your brain. Upend all that garbage and start fresh, empty. Nature abhors a vacuum, right? The second you empty your brain, a thought will rush in to fill it.
This is fine. Use this. Put your pen to paper and start writing.
Writing poetry, for me, is a conversation with my subconscious. I’m always a little bit curious to see what it will say next. What little monster will pop out of the deep Id? What strange conclusion will be drawn from this inauspicious little starter word?
I read once that creative people actually have a stronger link with their subconscious than non-creative people. It’s that little touch of madness… too strong a link makes you unfit to live in a society; too weak a link, you’re a robot I guess. But all you robots, do not despair. If you envy the wobbly reality on this side of things, you can work on breaking down that wall. Start by emptying your brain. Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.
Oh, you’re done emptying your brain already? Now write, or draw. The first random word or phrase that comes to mind, or the first line you draw. Kick it around. Follow where it leads. The Rationalist inside of you will tug on your sleeve and say, “hey… this is stupid, what is this shit?” Grab that rational person and upend them, over and over. You’ve ears only for your muse and her name is Crazy.
There is a thin, thin line between controlling your verbal rabbit chasing, and pure schizophrenic word salads. It’s like controlling a lucid dream. Very fine balancing act.
However, if you can master the art of tapping into your crazy, you will never be creatively blocked. Once I learned how to do this, I wrote my novel. Every time I found myself slowing down, not knowing where to go from here, I turned off my thinking brain and let the schizophrenic lead the leash for a few seconds. She never lets me down. Sometimes she takes me on a really strange, dumb, or unexpected journey, but if I just leave her to her own devices, she’ll sniff out the truffles. I think I mixed some metaphors there… schizophrenics aren’t good at finding truffles. Who knows, maybe they are.
How does this relate to finding your own voice? Well, I’ve always been an oddball, so I’ve always drawn or written odd things. A logical person will write logical things. And a normal person writes normal things. What if you’re ordinary? If you are, guess what? Ordinary people will love you. And there are a lot of ordinary people in the world. You’ll be a hit.
Help, I don’t have a voice! The anguished writer cried aloud, with her loud voice.
Yes, you do. It’s probably not the voice you wished you had. You can’t iron the uniqueness, or the normalness, out of yourself. That’ll only make you sad. Instead, embrace what you are. Accept the flaws. I must accept that I always write free verse with small words, frequently recurring words. Blah blah darkness blah blah time blah blah wild blah blah me I myself me. I get so bored of myself. I want to write like Edgar Allen Poe or Mark Twain, but that’s not happening. I’m too lazy to try, and if I did, it’d be stilted and wrong. It’d be more like an autotuned voice, or a helium voice.
You’ve got to be who you are. You’ve got to write what comes naturally. Don’t try to impress. Stay true. Don’t fake. Don’t act. Relax your mind and find that thin line between rabbit chasing and schizophrenia, and tread the edge. Don’t let the Rationalist hook you away. If you do this when you put pen to paper, then whatever you write or draw is pure untrammeled you. The hardest part is not about finding your voice; you already have it. It can’t leave you. The hardest part is shutting that inner critic up, and accepting the voice that you have.
Edit:: Conversations with these two are what inspired the above post. Read their stuff.
Lille Sparven speaks the raw truth:
Paul Sunstone asks the good questions: