what the hell is my voice: an oral, aural, and written journey

2013-Participant-Facebook-ProfileI’m “doing” NaNoWriMo, which I say every year, but this time I’m actually updating and lurking in the forums and putting write-ins on my Google calendar (and then not showing up because I work 40+ hours a week and I’m tired, bitches), so I’m way more into it than ever before.

Also, I am actually writing this time, so that’s cool, too.

As you can see from my little widget over to the right, I’m not exactly on the NaNo express train when it comes to word count. I don’t really care, because I knew that wouldn’t happen. I have way too much work and too many reading commitments to write 50,000 words. My real goal is to write every day, and I have the nagging of lots of wonderful students doing a much better job at the challenge than I am to get me to stick to that goal. It’s fantastic. So I now write every day, and the worst I have done is 50 words (well, and the one day I wrote only six) in a day, which is still a paragraph. What I wanted was to get back into the habit of writing, and I’m doing that, and that is wonderful. While there are some days that I just don’t have any interest in saying anything, I still have the urge to do the act of looking at the document and adding words to it, and that is something. And I have broken down some roadblocks I had come to in the plot and in some scenes, and it’s amazing how much you can just glide for awhile after you’ve done that. I forgot how that felt. I want to forget again, but this time from writing so much I don’t have blocks, not because I largely give up creative writing for two years. Never again. I’m going to finish this manuscript. And then some.

Then again, NaNoWriMo also awful, because I am trying to adhere to the rule of not editing while you work, but I like refining as I go. Even for most of my grad school classes, I rarely wrote actual second drafts of anything, because by the time I got to the end of a paper, I had rewritten everything ten times as I’d gone through. But because I like rules, and because I know it’s good to stretch yourself and force yourself out of your comfort zone, and because I know you can only edit nothing for so long before you need new material to edit, I am trying to respect that rule. It’s awful. But it’s a good one, really.

What ends up happening, though, is that every day, my writing is in a different place. I am reading too much these days, and I’m not at liberty to stop that until my commitments are over, so every time I pick up and write again, I can feel my voice changing, and not only is that not good for consistency, but a lot of times it’s really shitty because of some of the stuff I’ve been reading. Knowing that my writing is shitty and not being allowed to fix it makes me crazy, even though I know that I just have to write something, anything, if I want to have something to rewrite later.

Then there’s music, which I am kind of doing again, which is lovely. Still no guitar lessons, though I’m working on that. And I don’t even own a shitty keyboard to play almost piano anymore. Thank goodness for the faculty singing group at work. It makes me happy, though it also makes me realize I am way out of practice of reading scores. Like whoa. Sight reading has always been the thing I have been fantastic at, and I’m doing it badly now.

It thus occurs to me that for all that I am doing creative things again, which is huge, I mean HUGE, it’s been so long, and I’ve done so many things and so many types of things with my time over the last few years, that I am still lost. I don’t really know what my voice sounds like. I only know how to mimic.

I was kind of known for that when I was younger. I spent a summer singing to anyone who would listen (and to those who wouldn’t) the entire soundtrack to My Fair Lady (minus the crap that the men sing, because who cares) in a full-on Cockney accent. I am not actually funny in any way, shape or form, but I am really good at quoting the perfect line from the perfect movie in all situations and thus seeming like I am humorous. I pick up languages easily, and if you only make me say a couple sentences, I sound like I’m fluent in Portuguese because I have the ability to sound lazy and regional, which is more realistic than having a perfect accent. But I don’t know why my voice is like.

In a sense, that’s always going to be the case, in that way that anyone who hears their own voice on a recording thinks it’s awful and not the way it should be. But I also haven’t studied any type of music long enough to know what I would sound like had I not learned I liked singing by imitating all of the musicians I like and matching them really, really well. While I just said I’m not capable of actually hearing myself, I will say that I am pretty comfortable saying that I am pretty kickass at blending. That’s a great talent when you’re singing in a group, but it doesn’t really tell me what kind of singer I would be if I just sang. And it’s essentially the same thing with writing – I am so good at absorbing what I read and hear (this weekend, after many episodes of “Sherlock,” I read a bunch of Wendy Cope poems to myself in a British accent, and I don’t think I was bad), and I read and hear and watch so much, that I have no idea what part is me. It’s all very disjointed. Someone did say that a chapter I submitted to a workshop (an earlier version of the beginning of my current NaNoWriMo project – yes, I know that’s cheating) sounded like Madame Bovary, which I subsequently read and agreed with, but it’s been ages since I read that, and at least 200 books that I’ve read since then.

Reading is bad for you sometimes. Especially when you’re trying to write. And also when you use it to avoid writing. Or to avoid working on music.

Obviously, the thing to do is to keep writing anyway, since the point is just to write every day, and when my reading commitments are done, finish the draft, and then in revisions, see just how disjointed the voice really is. But it feels like such a fail to be my age – to have dedicated so much time, so much practice, so many classes and lessons, so many college majors, so much money towards two things that by now I should have some clear idea of my place in – and not have even a somewhat clear idea of what my place and my contribution is in/to those arts.

Okay, so I do kind of know. If you’ve met me, you know it, too. I am bomb diggity at talking and never shutting up.

I can write some good ass dialogue, and that’s where my writing shines. What I loved doing when I was younger was writing plays, and now, what I really want to do is write scripts. That and develop book-to-film (or TV movie) adaptations. I know I would be really, really fucking great at that. (Like, if you want me to give the professional elevator speech about how I know the world of kidlit and YA and have studied how Disney Channel adapts tween fiction to the small screen and on and on, I will. But not right now.) But I want to prove I can do this first, because even before the long time ago when I learned that I wanted to write scripts and that I would be good at it, I decided I wanted to write books. I can’t imagine any kid starts off with the script thing, because you don’t learn what those are when you learn how to read. But for the younger me who said she wanted to write books, I’m going to finish one. Hopefully like five, because I have a lot of ideas in my head. But if I can just finish the one I’m doing right now, if I can prove to my younger self and too all the many wonderful people who have told me to write over the years, I know it will get easier to write other things, because I will have seen that I can do it. If I can power through, I can learn productivity again, and I can find my voice or something. Whatever. Voice isn’t real. I think that’s the point. You just have to fucking write.

I need to go fucking write now.

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