A Word On Voice

Voice. Oh, man.

Voice.

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.

Imagine.

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.

Look At You – A Response to Myself

Yesterday I posted something quite sad, an emotional unloading of sorts. I’m a writer. It’s to be expected.

After fielding many an encouraging comment, email, tweet coming my way, I decided what I really needed was to respond to myself.

This is that response.

* * *

Wow.

Look at you.

A writer. A goddamn writer. You don’t get paid for it – yet – but look at you, writing and dreaming and writing some more.

And look at you, sort of blossoming like a struggled little weed, pretty little dandelion with its crown of yellow, soon to burst into a cloud of white wishes. You make wishes on those, you know – you wait for the yellow to fade into something that looks like death but is more a translucent transition, and with a puff of breath you send each feathery stalk into the wind to plant more wishes. And so look at you.

Things are not perfect. They’re not lovely or swell or even a tiny bit grand – but look at you, making it work. Look at you, seeing marble where there is only grubby metal. Look at you, dancing on kitchen tile while a cup of instant joe nukes in the microwave, soon to be relished as if it were liquid gold.

Life used to be easy, boring, a mess of one and the same. Life used to be a silver platter here, one there. Life is not this way anymore, and it’s sort of exciting, isn’t it? Look at you, living life. Finally and completely. Totally and utterly. Life is here and you’re here and you both intersected at some point, you both sort of had to say hello.

Look at you, staying at cafes all day just like you’ve always wanted. You drink coffee while you work, and it’s terribly cliché but terribly fun, and so you enjoy the hell out of it every single time. Look at you, sliding wayward glances at other writers while they work. Look at you and look at them.

Honestly, you’re living the dream. You’re an artist now, starving and hurting for money. You’re doing something most cannot because you only have a suitcase and yourself and that little cat named Ferris to look after. Vagabond. Traveler. Gypsy girl. Nomad.

You are all these things and it’s good, it’s perfect.

It will get better, that much is true. It takes time, just like with everything else – no? It takes some time or a lot of time, or not very much time at all. An ounce of it here and there, maybe. Writing is a journey, and journeys are time-consuming. Writing is for life. Do you know how long a life can be? Some live to over a hundred years old. You’re a scant twenty-one. Look at you.

Admittedly, yesterday was not a good kind of yesterday to have. It wasn’t a yesterday full of butterflies and goodnight kisses; it wasn’t full of fun or adventures. It was sort of dull and gray. There was more of that crying thing you so love to do now. There were eyes so puffy you could barely see.

But, that is allowed. Did you know this? You’re allowed to be human. To be vulnerable, to be scared, to be sad and alone – this is what makes you human.

Look at you, being human.

“I am but I’m not” is a heavy thing to say. You are, and you will be. You are, and you can be. You are, and you’ve always been.

Look at you, just being.

Look at you.