This Is It . . . Ground Zero

I don’t know if I’ll ever find my writing voice. And if that’s true, it means I’m not cut out to be a published writer. It doesn’t matter how bad I want to be one or how hard I try at it. If the talent’s not in my DNA, then it’s not in there. And that’s . . . very disappointing.

I think the barometer for gauging talent goes something like this: if you love doing something, really love it, then it’s probably something you can be good at. I’m not much of a believer in that. To me, the love makes you try your hardest to get good, but in order to completely succeed, you need the ability in your DNA. Up until recently, I thought I had that. Now I’m not so sure.

A while back Susan and Kait broke it to me that my writing needed more work. They were a little worried I’d get discouraged by their advice, but that’s not what’s happening. This has been building in my subconscious for a while now I think.

The way Susan put it, my writing is pretty good, but it doesn’t read like I wrote it. It lacks the all important Voice. Which means my writing either won’t connect with the reader or after reading a full story by me, it’ll leave the reader with a meh kind of feeling. No lasting impression or worse, no desire to read any future work by me. If that’s all I can hope for, why bother publishing?

But if don’t try, how will you know for sure?

Not the time to be rational, Brain. Did you forget what we read yesterday?

Yesterday’s post on Kait’s blog was titled: What Makes You STOP Reading An Otherwise Good Book? Say what? Out of my head, Nolan. :shakes fist like a mustache twirling villain: Between what she wrote and the comments that followed, connecting with the story enough to care what happens next is way up on the criteria for keeping a reader interested. Couldn’t agree more. And . . . uh oh.

My wife’s been super supportive because she’s the reigning Best Wife Ever and doesn’t want me to give up. I’m not and I don’t see a day where I’d totally stop writing, but I’m seriously questioning my future as a published writer. That’s why I’m journaling. If this doesn’t help me find my Voice, it’s not getting found.

As a companion piece to this article, go read Susan’s latest: I, Antagonist, part 1: The Procrastination. It’s full of analytical goodness about procrastination, which I’m sure is playing its part in my current mood.

6 comments on “This Is It . . . Ground Zero

  1. First off, I’m with you on believing that loving something isn’t enough to be good at it. I LOVE singing, but I can tell you without hesitation that singing is not something I’m good at it. With time and lessons? I could be ok. At best. But not record worthy.

    I feel like (assuming that we are in the same general age group) somewhere around our generation this attitude started that if you just believe you can, if you want it enough, that is all it takes. Effort, hard work, love for the craft…the end result: bad American Idol auditions and YouTube.

    BUT (yes, there is a very big but here) — from reading your blog, I do feel like there is a writer here. Your wit, the way your every day “conversational” writing in your posts flow… Maybe all the noise around you is crowding out that voice. You just may need time to coax it out.

    Something that may or may not be worth trying – literally listen to your voice. Put the pen/paper away, move the keyboard aside. Then TELL a story. Record it. Then listen. Could you see the setting? Did you want to get to know the characters more?

    Play with an idea you don’t care about (i.e. something you have no intentions of publishing). Maybe fanfic – maybe that story about Red you keep pitching. 😉 Whatever it is, give yourself something that lets you be free – and lets you be you.

    I’ve typed for too long. I should have had a smaller cup of coffee…

    Big hugs. I hope you find your voice. I truly think it is waiting for you.

  2. I want to echo Amber’s comments, as I think they are wise, and also to add something my mother once told me: “Never make snap judgments about yourself at 4am in the morning.” She meant it quite literally but I’ve found a much broader use for it, in the idea that what you TRULY BELIEVE to be true right now might not be true at all tomorrow.

    Writers are a sensitive, introspective lot (part of the job description) and we value what we think (we have to, really). But how we feel about our writing today will definitely not be how we feel about it next week, or next year. Give yourself some space to work specifically on that aspect of your writing, shelve your inner critic, and come back to this decision later. Nothing is going to be hurt by tucking it away for a bit.

  3. This blog post will get some comments.

    That’s not just me revving up to give you an earful, young man, it’s about the fact that’s it real and genuine, and speaks to something people understand and share with you.

    That’s the essence of good fiction: real and genuine, speaking to something people understand and want to share with you.

    Honey, that’s all I’m saying. That’s all it is. This post, right here, Andrew being Andrew. You have a voice, and it’s all over this page, allowing everyone who comes by here today to feel what you feel because they’ve felt it too, and connect with you over it.

    It’s not that you need to find or develop something awesome that you don’t have. It’s that you have learn to stop holding out on yourself when you sit down to write book. We all go through this. We sit down to write book and start to talk Booklish. And we’re not even aware that we’re doing it, making it one of the harder things to shake.

    We speak Booklish because it’s the language in which we were taught fiction. It might help if the things we were forced to read in school were more commercial in tone and hella more awesome and set a good example of what we’re supposed to strive for as modern writers. Instead we read a lot of stuff that–while it absolutely has merit and has become classic for good reason–does not give us what we need. Yet we internalize the form.

    So you put yourself into fiction mode, and your brain switches over to Booklish, and it creates a barrier between you and–yourself! I believe that you reach people when you genuinely are who you are–it doesn’t matter if you are who you are in the guise of someone eight feet tall, ninety-eight pounds soaking wet, and blue–when your humanity shows through your words and touches someone else’s understanding of their own humanity.

    I’m generally not interested in believing that writing is DNA coded. I believe that humanity as a whole is wired for storytelling. Every single one of us reacts to narrative. Every one of us tells anecdotes, tells that funny thing that happened or our shitty day at the office in narrative form, not bullet points.

    Yes, some of us have a proclivity to go beyond that, to create things that are entirely new and largely outside of our factual experience. But a writer gene? Too simple. Too straightforward when writing is such a messy business, when it pulls from so many places inside you.

    When I tell a good story, it’s not because X and Y hooked up, got frisky, and a DNA spiral popped out with my writing gift-wrapped in a big red bow. It’s because of the things that came after that, the life I lived, the fears, hurts, pleasures, and wonders I experienced that I fed into that story. It’s because of the quiet time I spent pondering what those things meant to me, and the time I spent sitting in a corner observing others and pondering what things mean to them. It’s because some of those pleasures and wonders–as well as some of those fears and hurts–were things I experienced through other people’s words, and I paid attention to that. It’s because, I decided to tell a story, and even when hated the doing of it, I did it anyway, and, in the end, I loved having done it.

    If you want a story, take it. It’s not easy. They fight you. A lot of them get away. And then, if you’re game, you go hunt down another one and try wrestling that one into submission.

    “Send me your most pathetic moment, your most anything, as long as it’s real. I mean, I want the size, the shape, the feel, the smell. I want blood, sweat, and tears on these letters. I want brains and ectoplasm and cum spilled all over them. Hallelujah!” -Happy Harry Hard-On, Pump Up the Volume

    When you learn to break through your own bullshit fear and really put THAT on the page, it can’t BE in anyone else’s voice but your own.

  4. Yes to all the comments above, especially Susan’s.

    I was just going to ask if maybe part of the issue isn’t the idea of writing to publish and all the weight that carries. When I start a story, I start it for me. When I edit the story, I then consider others.

  5. There are such good comments here, I’m not sure I need to say much more. I get what Susan says about Booklish. That was hard for me to get out of and I still find myself having to fight that. You should have seen how many times I DIDN’T use contractions when I should have in my first book. Luckily, a writer called me on that. I think you just need to be Andrew. Put YOU into it. Don’t give up your writing dream unless you’re absolutely SURE it’s not going to work. Give it a chance. Keep writing for yourself and something publishable might just come out of it. 🙂

  6. @Amber- Thank you. I’m definitely more comfortable being me, here at Stupid Words. I don’t put nearly as much pressure on myself to write an awesome blog post as I might writing a novel. So, I suppose that’s part of it. Being comfortable enough to let the words come out naturally, like I’d speak them.

    @Kim- I doubt this is the final word on where my writing journey takes me. I feel like this is a jumping off point for me. Like I’ve hit bottom/am out of lifelines/bottom of the ninth, take your pick. If I’m feeling this low, there’s nothing left to lose, so I might as well go for it and see where it takes me.

    @Lady-Twin- Yes, I suffer from the Bookish Voice. And it’s made me wonder if part of my problem is not having a complete grasp on my character’s feelings. So I’m left with writing about what they’re doing and leaving how they’re feeling about it in the dust. Hmm.

    I still think there’s a writer gene. I think there’s a gene for every kind of talent. I’ve always had a love for telling stories (the fictional kind) and admire the guys who do it well. I don’t know why I love it so much. It’s just always been there. And since I can’t explain it, I dub thee Writer Gene!

    @Nina-There’s probably a little of that because I’ve written stories that basically would need a complete rewrite to be publishable. That’s where my head’s at. Can I bridge the gap between unpublishable to publishable?

    @LL- I’m not absolutely sure, just wondering where I’m going with it. That’s what’s nice about the journaling. Zero pressure. Write what I feel and hit publish. According to Susan, this will make me awesome. So far, she’s been right about everything else. We’ll see if her winning streak holds.

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