Over this first week of my spring vacation, I’ve spent an abundant amount of time thinking about writing (and reading). So much time, in fact, that I nearly (but didn’t) signed up for a coursera.org Writing I (college composition) class. I decided against not because I don’t think it would do me any good (all the contrary), but rather that by the time I found it, it was already 10 days underway, and I didn’t want to have missed a single thing.
That urge got me thinking about what I write, how I write, and my “voice.” I’m not sure it’s really my voice anymore. By which I mean, perhaps, that it’s not my main voice, or even the voice with which I have become most comfortable. Rather, it’s the voice that I know others in my long-standing, regular audience are used to and most comfortable with.
In an effort to get my blog readers to talk back to me (read: “be uncomfortable”), a few nights ago I wrote an annotated list of things I believe and why: right to bear arms, and contradictorily the right not to HAVE to bear arms, the right to marry whomever one pleases without legal hurdles impeding spousal rights in the case of illness or death, among other usually inflammatory topics. What I discovered as I wrote is not what I believe (which I’ve known for a long time), but rather that I don’t write about these topics well. Not even from my own experience (more vast than I care to let on – that may be part of the problem with the writing well, or not writing well). Writing well about those ideas, and all my ideas, is important to me, but I think as long as I’m trying to stay in the good graces of the imaginary people of my long-standing audience, I can only write about certain things well. Please note that the “beliefs” post never made the ether; its electrons remain safely stashed among the thousands of things that have never seen the light of day.
At the beginning of the school year, I started a graphic novel project with the help of the art teacher. The story line was to be based on an essay I wrote years ago about a girl I have been, a bowie knife, and a boy she knew. As the art began to come together, I realized that the original piece, a personal essay, was merely the background story to a larger, fictional, warrior-woman story. And I’ve not been able to get past the first scene of this new piece, in part I’d guess, because I’m terrified of what this unknown woman will do, now that she’s tearing away the fabric of what I thought she was, expected her to be. And in part because I see the faces of dismay in my accustomed audience when I write, and the words of her story come to a full stop. Still, her story needs to play out, and it’s up to me to give her that chance.
And so, I’m giving myself permission to return to my rebellious, free-wheeling twenty-year-old mind and voice, unhindered by the audience (that is, the one in my head) that is known to me, and that has certain expectations for correctness — or whatever it is they expect — that keeps my voice from changing. I need to throw open the theater doors and give the familiar faces with all their familiar reactions a chance to leave, open up the ticket booth, put out a new marquee and see who stays, and who comes in to give the ideas a once over. The shows have definitely changed, though I’m sure that in many ways this new voice will sound familiar, too.
All that’s left to say? Break a leg!