Friday, February 24, 2006

A few thoughts on voice

I've been thinking about writing a lot lately.... so if you're here for the food, skip down two posts for some great popovers! (And I promise you a few great new recipes in the next week, so be sure to check back soon)... If, on the other hand, if you're here because you love writing, read on!

Recently, someone asked a question about voice; as in, "what is it and how do I find mine?"

Interesting question.

I was tooling around town the other day in my sleek minivan listening to music, noodling over this very question, and had a little brain flash. The group I was listening to was one I recently discovered on our local station, KUT. Their music captivated me so much that I went out and bought their most recent CD, and to my delight, there were several songs on that CD that exemplified that wonderful, unique sound -- the voice -- that created a reponse in me.

So I went out and bought a few of their earlier CDs. And was disappointed. Why? The songs were good, but they weren't as mesmerizing as the group's more recent work. It's because they was still trying out other voices -- and I recognized several of the styles they were experimenting with. Occasionally, a few strains of what would eventually become the group's voice came through, enough to get me excited for a few seconds, but it didn't happen very often. All told, it took them six CDs to figure out who they were. And the music they make now has a unique and wonderful feel to it that resonates in me -- and a bunch of other people, too, since their new stuff is selling like hotcakes.

Now, the point of this little digression, in my opinion, has a lot to do with writing. And growing as a writer. Because if this particular group had given up on the second, third, or even fifth CD, that fabulous voice never would have had an opportunity to develop. And I think every one of the songs they wrote -- even though they weren't stellar -- was a necessary step on the road to finding their unique sound.

Like me, you've probably picked up a recently released book, loved it, and then read the author's earlier work, only to see flashes of brilliance, but not the fully realized voice you fell in love with in the author's latest book. And I think that's how it usually happens for all artists. We feel our way along, keep working, keep experimenting, keep emulating people whose work resonates with us, until finally, maybe without us even realizing it, we've found it. The thing that makes us special. That voice.

So even if you're awash in rejection letters, keep working, keep writing. Every word, every scene, every story we write is another step along the path. And every sentence puts us a little bit closer to finding that magic inside us... that voice.

Speaking of voices, I hear one from the kitchen now... and it's saying "I want lunch." So I'll sign off now... with the promise of a great roast pork recipe to come, as soon as I have time to type it in!


At 10:30 PM, September 04, 2006, Anonymous Marchbanks said...

I absolutely agree that some authors, artists, musicians, who-have-yous need a while to find their voices. E.g., Terry Pratchett, one my perennial favorites, didn't hit his stride until he'd written seven or eight of his Discworld series, and didn't really nail it until a couple of books after that.

However, there are some people who say what they have to say in the first book, or first CD, and everything after that is lesser. Just as the first to mind, the Average White Band released two albums of really good blue-eyed soul, then fell off and never did anything else significant. You never can tell which it'll be.


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