As a young man writing became a form of escape rather than communication. Like every youthful and exuberant lad with a particular talent I thought I would someday write a great poem, essay or book, but that never happened, although I did write well enough to make a living at it for a while, which in technical terms makes me a professional writer.
I wrote poetry in my teen years that caught many eyes and received praise from people who really didn’t have a grasp of what poetry is all about. This encouraged me to write more, however, and it got to a point where I could write a poem about most any subject most anytime. I’ve written hundreds of poems, maybe a thousand, so many were lost in the days when my musings were written on paper with a pen or typewriter.
Writers have their own voice. If you read someone for a while you can often pick out something they have written by reading just a few paragraphs. You can make an educated guess; that’s George Will, Stephen King or Andy Rooney. Yet, this voice we writers have can get lost. We lose it inside ourselves while trying to make it come out when it doesn’t want to. We lose it when we are forced to write in a certain fashion or about subjects we have no interest in. Rote memory can take over the creative juices of the voice we have used for so long.
I worked as a journalist for about 15 years, which nearly ruined me as a writer. Journalism, in and of itself has a voice that often conflicts with your own. Not to mention editors who snip away pieces of your writing or rearrange words so they are read with different effect. Even when I worked as an editor for one newspaper I had a managing editor who would sometimes step in and change something I had written.
I learned to dislike journalism, while at the same time, I realized how important journalism is in its raw form. So, believing I was carrying on an important public service I stayed on far too long. But hey, we’ll talk about what has happened to journalism another time.
After leaving the news business I got into blogging because I still wanted to be a writer and editorial writing was something I had some experience with. I got back to the roots of my writing a little while blogging because I could attack those things I found unfair in society; I could be an active activist again. I gained a following, some of it here on WordPress, but I wasn’t satisfied. I wasn’t satisfied because I was still writing the same old crap about social injustices and politics.The only difference being, I had no editor hanging over my shoulder. Nevertheless, I had lost my writing voice it seemed.
I stopped blogging in that manner about two years ago, and in fact deleted about 90 percent of my blogs from this site. I didn’t want to be that person anymore. I didn’t want to be a puppet on someone’s string. My writing and my voice belonged to me, no one else.
I wrote a book with a friend of mine about our shared experiences with child abuse, which by the way didn’t sell very well. I began writing a piece of fiction about a journalist, which of course includes some reliable insight. I have featured that piece here in part, but have yet to finish. I will finish it in time and post it as promised, but even that is not the kind of writing I really want to do. What I want to write about, in truth, is something about me my reader can relate and respond to. That’s mostly what a writer wants to accomplish; a relationship with the reader.
My wife asks me often if I’ve written anything else on my novel. I understand she is trying to encourage me, but what she doesn’t understand is that writing is like no other form of communication. Writing is special, dignified and curious. Writing can be learned rote and boring, or it can take us to places we’ve never been before. That’s is where we should want to take our readers, to places they’ve never been before.
So, while I’ve went astray from the writer I am probably meant to be, I’m going to try to find it again. I’m going to try to find it again by going back to the basics.
The most interesting subject to talk about is ourselves. You may think what you have to share about yourself and your life’s journey is not important to others, but it is because we’re all on the same journey.
My advice to my fellow writers: Tell people as much as you feel comfortable with about yourself; this is the only way to really connect with your reader. You don’t always have to be brutally honest, but you do have to be convincing. People are very different from each other and yet they are very much alike. Explore the differences, note the similarities and then compare and contrast. Be a story teller, but remember the most interesting story you have in memory is about yourself and your own experiences.