I was thinking today about how writing can be an exercise in beating your head against a wall sometimes. You think that you’ve come so far since your fledgling steps into the mysterious world of craft and wordage, and then you read something that completely blows your mind and you wonder why the heck you can’t write like that yet, though you’ve been doing all the things you need to do.
You attend workshops. Maybe you have a writers’ group. You’ve got a good editor who works with you and you send bits of your manuscripts to writers you suspect are better than you to provide feedback and guidance. You read writing guide books, you do exercises in infrastructure and narrative, you maybe see a sort of evolution in your own pages, you get all the feedback you can, you develop a self-editor, and you study structure.
And then you read something so mind-bogglingly lovely that it leaves you both wallowing in appreciation and feeling as if you just got kicked in the teeth.
A few months back I shared a bit of writing on a social media website that I thought was exquisitely rendered and I posted a comment about how I was going back to the drawing board, so that I could get better, and perhaps approach the level of writing that the piece I had shared demonstrated to me. Somebody else commented right after that in response to me (and I’m paraphrasing here) that no matter how hard I tried, I would never write the way the author of the piece I’d shared would, that I would basically never attain it.
That comment stuck first in my craw and then in the back of my mind. Writers are a sensitive lot, after all.
But I came to understand something in the wake of that comment. No, I will never write like the author of the piece I so admired, for the simple reason that I am someone else, with a different style and narrative voice. I can’t say whether I will attain the level of craftsmanship and wordsmithing that I thought this other author approached, because my view in this matter may be subjective, and some out there will most likely think this other author isn’t all that, anyway.
That’s the other thing I took away from that comment. Not everything I write will resonate with everyone (it obviously hasn’t with that commenter), but that’s okay. I’m not necessarily writing for everyone. I’m writing the stories in my head, as I see them, and I’m striving to tell them in the best possible way that I can, through the alchemy of craft and voice. I know craft can improve with practice and attention, and I know that in that journey, somewhere, is my writer’s voice. Where it takes me remains to be seen.
And for a supercalifragilistic blog on “voice” and finding it, click here.