I’ve been thinking lately. (This could be a bad sign.)
I’ve been thinking lately about writing. (Definitely a bad sign.)
And I’ve been thinking about my voice in writing. Wondering if I’ve found it, wondering if I’ve been looking for it the right way, and wondering if I’m telling the right stories about the right people in the right places.
I used to have this thought –and sometimes I still do—that I’d be an incredible writer once something either really great or really terrible or really unusual happened to me. I’ll be an incredible writer when I stumble on a new math theorem, and unlike most mathematicians, I’m hilarious and discovered a theorem at an incredibly young age. (This idea persisted for my sophomore year of high school when I thought being a mathematician was the best way to go about being a writer.) (Really.) Or I’ll be a great writer when everyone I know dies in a single plane crash, and it’s up to me to preserve the legacy of literally everyone I’ve ever met. Or I’ll be a great writer when my circumstances magically change to be a person on the fringe of society, some sort of misheard, misunderstood sub-group of the population that is desperate for an inspirational voice, and I’ll begrudgingly take on the role. They need me.
But I’ve been thinking lately that these scenarios might not be the best way to go about writing.
I’ve been thinking that even though I will never make (discover?) a math theorem or have a news-worthy tragedy happen or be anything other than a white, Christian, Midwesterner—even with all of that “boring” stuff—my story might just be worthy of telling.
My voice—this one I have right now at 24 that doesn’t know what in the hell it’s talking about—it might just have something to add to this world.
And this voice feels new and old at the same time. So much of my writing is an imitation of what other writers are doing. Heck, even this post was inspired but this kickass article. So much of my writing is trying to write the way I wish I thought and spoke instead of the way I do. It’s the poor Jonathon Safran Foer version of me. It’s the Rainbow Rowell version of me. (I like that version an awful lot.) So much of my writing is missing the version of me that’s just me.
I think I could be successful with these other versions. My writing would probably be cuter and funnier and have less Walmart involved.
But the writing wouldn’t be me. It wouldn’t expand what we’re doing here, in this life business. What if I take a chance and say my voice is good enough?
I mean, maybe it’s not. Ha. I could fail terribly with my voice. My stories could be just as uninteresting as I fear they are.
But even if that’s the case, my voice, my life, my little view of the world, it deserves a shot. I get to be me and put me’s with me stories all over my writing because it’s mine. (Have I used “me” enough? No?)
I want to tell stories about youngest children growing up in Indiana and hating college and loving family and eating food and having jiggly bodies and laughing hysterically and crying over the stupid things. Because if I’m writing, what in the world am I doing not writing about the stupid things? I want to write only about the stupid things and imperfect people and little corners of my points of view.
In elementary school, I didn’t speak. Just for the first four years or so. But in the fourth grade, I remember getting actual friends for the first time in my life, and they would often repeat: “Hilary, I had no idea you were like this.” “This” often meant loud, funny, strong, or smart.
I feel like the same thing is happening with my writing, with my voice. All my life, I’ve seen it as this quiet, little thing that sort of got sad when I didn’t use it. I’ve underestimated it as something that needed an external push—most likely in the form of mass tragedy—to blossom, but maybe I have no idea it’s like “this”: it’s just as smart, quirky, weird, funny, dumb, pretty, average, crazy, and worthy of love as I am. I’ve been thinking about that lately.