Sometimes life seems to put you with a leg on either side of a chasm and it becomes hard to move in either direction as you straddle the abyss. My apologies for not replying to your comments ( I do appreciate them and will get there.) Unfortunately something had to give as I finally spread myself to thin and something was about to crack – that something being me.
I was invited to write a scholarly book chapter which I gladly accepted at the time, chuffed that I was one that had been invited. It is due at the end of this month for peer reviewing and I am nowhere near finished and have been struggling. Struggling to sound scholarly and the flow of the writing dried up, shrivelled and disjointed.
This week at a conference I ran into the editor and admitted my problem. Immediately she said – “Don’t worry. We want you to write you. We are starting off with theory, philosophy and different methodologies — the dry and boring but essential. You”, she said “Were chosen for your distinctive voice. You can put the personal on the theory and people will remember the method for you’ll show them how it works in practice.”
I was so relieved she said that. I’d been trying to get rid of my voice. Trying to sound scholarly instead of me, the reason I now know was the reason I was chosen. It is a lesson to all writers. When you have your own voice, even when that man in black who sits whispering in your ear is active telling you it is no good, don’t try and change it. You may never write like those you consider great but it is your voice that will make people want to read what you have to say and that self critic will never rest so learn to live with him.
I have thrown him off my shoulder (for a short time anyway) and have been happily writing my chapter since. It is not quite finished but certainly will be by the end of the month. When the voice is yours the writing flows unimpeded.
In case you aren’t certain what voice is, simply put, it is the tone or style of a narrative. When I read, I hear the words being spoken, giving me the tone, rhythm of speech, the vocabulary and emphasis used. Just as if someone were talking to me. This mental audio then allows me to visualise the narrator and other characters in the narrative. The voice can be persuasive, confess a sin, confide a secret, mourn a lover, or any other number of emotions it can raise in us as the reader. It is what leads us to form a relationship with the narrator, whether love or hate or anything in between. It is also what makes it a believable story or not.
If the writing is memoir or any other autobiographical work then the author takes ownership of the voice of the narrating ‘I’. My voice in my memoir works is the same in life as it is in text. In fiction the voice is attributed to the narrator of the story.
However it does become much more complicated because our works aren’t simply one voice. There are multiple. Most works both fiction and autobiographical are polyvocal but perhaps that will be the topic of another post.