I was having a discussion with one of my writer friends about whether or not she should write comedy because she doesn’t know if it sounds right coming from her. She works for a non-profit government agency and has political aspirations, and usually has some very informed (but not reluctant to listen to an arugment against her stance if it is well-formulated) articles and thoughts on what she believes to be today’s pressing issues. She’s funny too; but only her oldest friends know that. As a result, she’s not sure her comedic voice is what people want to read. Anyways, it pushed a nerve inside me I guess. I started thinking about what I should write. And the truth of it is – I don’t really know.
I love to write. I would love nothing more than to tell people that my profession is “writer.” Okay, I work as a technical writer but my job involves less writing than it does hair pulling out. In fact, since I’ve been doing this job (around 9 and a half years) I’ve probably written about 10,000 original words. And of those words, 10,000 of them were slightly more basic than monosyllabic (everything we write needs to be either translated into Arabic or read by people who have limited English vocabularies, or taken from complex computer lingo and translated into normal speak). So, in truth, I’m more of a technical editor than a technical writer.
Thankfully it does fuel my fire to write creatively. And, okay, recently my only creative outlet has been this blog but at least it’s an outlet. I have ideas I want to formulate (most of them children’s novels) and I will get around to them. When, you ask, will I get around to them? Well, my dear friends, I will get around to them when I decide that I’m good enough to write them or have the right voice to write them. That, in a nutshell, is my problem as a writer.
I struggle to find my niche. Hell, I struggle to find “a” niche, let alone the one that is mine. It doesn’t stop me from writing, or attempting to write, but it does stop from focusing on any long-term projects because I do struggle believing I have the artistic chops to deal with it. Stephen King has a niche, so does JK Rowling. There are many writers on this site who seem to know exactly what they are best at writing and write it very well. We have political pundits here, people who exude entertainment issues with the greatest of ease, social commentators, and some comedians as well. Me? I can’t even decide what my blog should be about. One day I’m blogging about my life in the Middle East, the next day I could be writing imaginary break-up letters to Natalie Portman (I really love that idea). I can’t decide if I’m a comedian, a newsman, a sports aficionado, or just someone who loves the sound of his own voice. Well, I am the latter definitely, but I think you know what I mean. And as much as I love hearing the sound of my own literary voice… I have no idea what my voice sounds like.
Every single book I have read on writing tells me that I need to find my own voice. Every instructor I have had in creative writing tells me that having my own voice is key. Right now, I feel like some lame stand-up doing impressions. I wish I sounded like a great stand-up doing impressions but I’m stuck sounding like a lame one. I have written so many different stories and blogs that I don’t even know when I’m putting on an accent anymore. It can get rather frustrating when I know what I want to say but I just can’t say it – or say it the way I want it said. And it isn’t about not having the right words; it’s about not having the right voice to use the words.
Over the turbulent span of my writing life, I have written a children’s novel (not yet published), a non-fiction book with comedic elements about the province I grew up in (published and sometimes still found on bookshelves in Alberta stores), blogs about dating, fashion, living in a foreign country, sports, family, friends. I have written using comedy, using tragedy, using matter of fact reality to try and entertain my readers. I have written poems (5 in total and I hate every one of them), cover letters, personal ads (some for friends), illustrated stories for the children of my sister and a friend, and also porn. Hell, in college I would get paid by some of my friends to write porn for them. It’s a curse being a talented pervert! I have written speeches and debates, words intended for publication and words solely for the privacy of my hard drive. And I wonder if each word has lacked one thing – the true voice I am supposed to have.
Now, I ask you this – how am I supposed to publish my best work (and I know that not even it being my best work is likely to get me published) when I can’t focus on the one genre, in my one voice, and make that genre my submissive to my every whim? Am I just harboring false dreams of seeing my name in print again? Does the lack of confidence I have in finding what I’m supposed to be writing like make these words any less truthful? If this isn’t my “voice”, aren’t these words tainted? Yes, I mean what I am saying, but if I’m saying it incorrectly, so to speak, do they carry the same meaning. Maybe I’m reading too much into this and trying to analyze things too much.
So I struggle with finding my voice. I should be used to that by now. I went through most of high school not talking because of my stutter. I didn’t know what my voice sounded like then and I think I turned out fine. And maybe I’m not supposed to have a niche. Maybe I’m not supposed to master any genre and this is all my writing will amount to. Maybe, at the end of the day, this little blog that has kept me creative and introduced me to some wonderful and talented people is all I am lucky enough to write. Would I be fine with that? Absolutely. But I’d also like to give you guys a blog that doesn’t require a translator to figure out what voice it’s written in.