A Word On Voice

Voice. Oh, man.


What is ‘voice’ when you’re a writer? How do you obtain and maintain a voice, capture the essence thereof, speak with it and be heard, actually heard?

Voice is written and expressed in myriad fashions – it’s our existential thumbprint. It’s what separates all of us into more unique human beings. A writer’s voice is something that moves others into literary submission. And if you’ve got a strong voice, all it takes is a whisper for people to hear you.


All it takes is a whisper.

There are several billion people on this planet, each with a default voice. We communicate the same set of emotions, expressions, fears, and dreams with that default voice, and it’s a thin layer, a surface level, on which the human voice generally operates. It can be polite conversation, a heart-to-heart, or merely a ‘hello’ in passing. Everyone is capable of using this sort of ‘voice.’

The artist’s voice is deeper than that, varied in its depth. Its ultimate goal is to move its recipients into an impossible place, world, or emotion. It’s telepathy executed to the tune of a specific lullaby. Some people will identify with this lullaby. Some will merely hear it, acknowledge it. Some will remain deaf to it for the entirety of their existence.

The writer’s voice is particularly hard to ascertain, as everyone is capable of writing a word or set of words, just as everyone is capable of participating in polite conversation like I mentioned. Everyone can say ‘hello’ and everyone can write ‘hello.’ The point at which a writer has a ‘strong’ voice – or a voice at all – is literally a matter of determining who can arrange 26 letters of the alphabet in a manner that is agreed upon by a populace to be more appealing than how the next guy arranged 26 letters of the alphabet.

That’s really trippy if you think about it hard enough.

Seriously, think about that.

One writer could look at a woman drinking coffee and describe it exactly as it’s happening, and everyone would probably agree on the description. The emotional value of that description might be neutral, but hey – it’s accurate and so it is sufficient.

Another writer could somehow interpret the same woman drinking the same coffee exactly as it’s happening, but in a way that’s… more than sufficient. There’s tone. There are lyrical word choices. There’s bite and grit and malice, beauty and charm and lacy melody. There are decisions being made in a literary sense that it’s actually above the reader at first, a flit of magic unnoticeable to the naked eye until everything just blossoms at the end, concludes with a reverberating chill down the spine.

It’s not just a woman drinking coffee anymore. It’s a story about a human being. It’s a story other human beings want to hear and relate to; it’s a story human beings want to remember and hold close to beating hearts because they now believe it’s just added to and emotionally affected their existence as a human fucking being.

That’s voice.

Don’t be sufficient. Don’t ever be sufficient.

I Am But I’m Not

I don’t know what to write anymore.

It’s not for a lack of inspiration or motivation. It’s simply, I do not know how to move forward.

It’s times like these where I say to myself, ‘Why did I choose this? Why did this choose me?’ and I hate every facet of it. I hate words and I hate sentences. I hate virtual ink on a virtual page. I end up hating myself.

I felt strange today. I couldn’t drive normally – almost made a bad left turn – and all music sounded like loopy, numb, calliope constructions. I couldn’t understand any of it or my surroundings. I couldn’t understand myself.

When I was little, I used to experience a different sort of strange I couldn’t put into words – it was a hypersensitive, hyper-realization of being alive. My eyes would wobble in their sockets; my limbs would go fuzzy, yet everything was clearer than it should’ve been. Life itself suddenly separated from me, as if it were a reversal of the traditional out-of-body experience. The effervescence of life, like a vortex, vacuumed back into me like a molecular explosion. My breaths would hitch in my throat. Smells catapulted my nose and tastes were exemplified, even the grubby hint of morning on my tongue.

It terrified me. Mostly because I thought it meant I was really supposed to be dead. As if it were a mistake that I was alive, and that this was a spiritual glitch in my life-force, an angry attack against me.

It still happens once in a blue moon. I’ll get an ‘attack’ and I’ve learned how to get through it. There’s no discernible reason for its cause, and no, there’s no name.

Today – today I almost willed for it to happen. I wanted so badly to cease to exist. Very quietly, like an alien abduction, a vaporized disintegration. I wanted so badly to seep back into the fabric of my seat, then the metal of the car, then the cement on the street. I wanted to flatten like a pancake and stay that way, always looking at the sun.

Or to float away. Red balloon. Float away like I let float away a ‘We Miss You!’ balloon to honor my grandfather’s death when I was little. My mother had told me it was headed for heaven.

I want to feel constellations in my grasp. I want to drift amongst planets and galactic explosions of light.

I fucking hate the greasy smack of Los Angeles, of any city, of this country. Sometimes I lean back and close my eyes and think about when I’ll go back to Paris under sweeter conditions. Sometimes I think I might live there forever and meet a nice man and have two kids and we’ll take walks to the cemetery under the bridge. I think about the perpetual Parisian dew in the air. The breads. Oh, the bread.

Sometimes I wish for everyone to feel this completely and utterly numb.

Just the other day, though, I cried in my car and it was the first time I’d cried in ages, and I laughed through tears because it was a miraculous thing I should cry again, really cry. And now all I want is to cry.

I start and I stop. I write and I trash.

I am but I’m not.