Finding the writer’s voice

…once I’ve written enough of one of my ongoing projects to show you, I’ll send that out…
~ Jacob ~

That terse but accommodating notation – apart from a Happy Easter salutation – was quite literally the bottom line of an email I recently received from a chap who identifies himself as a writer. Or, more precisely, from a chap who had the fraternity to call me a “fellow writer”. I had told him in my opening email to him that “I consider writing a hobby of mine.” Though I doubt I’ve made an inductive leap to label him a writer. He appears to take the calling humourlessly; indeed to the point of self-incrimination if he ignores his stated objective to become a published author.

Writing, I am discovering, is quite succinct from blogging. Apparently writing constitutes the formal writing process, the medium of what are traditionally called novels. The utility of the internet to publish one’s ideas has facilitated the process but hasn’t necessarily enhanced the product. Blogging seems to fall into the latter category, what are charitably called “informal diary-style text entries”. That is my avowed neighbourhood for writing – convenient, fulfilling and entertaining. Any celebrity beyond that is highly doubtful! Granted, complaisancy doesn’t begin to capture the shameful essence! Be assured I have neither reservation nor remorse!

A blog (a truncation of “weblog”) is a discussion or informational website published on the World Wide Web consisting of discrete, often informal diary-style text entries (posts). Posts are typically displayed in reverse chronological order, so that the most recent post appears first, at the top of the web page. Until 2009, blogs were usually the work of a single individual, occasionally of a small group, and often covered a single subject or topic. In the 2010s, “multi-author blogs” (MABs) emerged, featuring the writing of multiple authors and sometimes professionally edited. MABs from newspapers, other media outlets, universities, think tanks, advocacy groups, and similar institutions account for an increasing quantity of blog traffic. The rise of Twitter and other “microblogging” systems helps integrate MABs and single-author blogs into the news media. Blog can also be used as a verb, meaning to maintain or add content to a blog.

Reading Jabob’s austere comments about his writing reminded me of my favourite author, JD Salinger (famous primarily for having written “The Catcher in the Rye” but also pivotal to me for having written “Franny and Zooey” ,”Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters” and “Seymour: An Introduction“).  I’ve heard it said that Salinger was singularly private, even to the extent of having barricaded himself behind an impenetrable wall surrounding his remote rural residence. He never succumbed to popular persuasion to publish more. Unlike so many others who not only tolerate but who invite popular attention, Salinger was a successful writer who seemed governed by uncommon integrity.

It is in this context – with Salinger in the background – that I dissected with interest the elemental features of Jacob’s generous email to me today.  I am oddly a client of his father’s business. It was only in casual conversation with his father (whom I have known and dealt with for many years) that the topic of his son’s interest in writing arose.  Curiously as well I did business many years ago with Jacob’s grandfather whom I considered a highly talented artist.

Writing for my part is primarily purgative. The catharsis rids me of unwanted anxiety. Latterly – since I have retired and have time to devote to “writing” – writing has assumed a greater necessity for communication rather than detail; that is, how it’s said, not so much what is said.  I acknowledge this approaches an air of triviality but for me it is nothing but an acknowledgement that effective writing requires a mechanism.  Within that sphere one may add to the fundamental prescription to avoid surplusage, the more complicated assumption of one’s own thoughts.

If one’s writing reflects one’s thoughts, surely the task should be overwhelming natural and productive.  These two ingredients – natural and productive – are two words for the same thing.  If one hears an inner voice – and if one has the unequivocal capacity to express it – the labour is as token as breathing. Thus one discovers one’s voice. There is no other avenue, no predictable path, only doing what is you. Simple.

And yet Jacob’s goal – “my goal of becoming a published author”  – is jammed. He hasn’t “enough to send” or “anything worth sharing”. As a result his conscience is pricked; viz., “then my conscience kicks up a fuss“, “false sense of accomplishment”, “I should be working on getting one of my stories finished!“, “that niggling voice in the back of my head telling me I’m just procrastinating” and “once I have enough to send you, I’ll definitely send it your way“.

There is however another alternative. Measuring the result before the capital is poured forth seems a backward approach. Even excusing that logical subterfuge, the additional – and no doubt paramount – imperative to get on with the job prevails. This hesitation is not something to which I have ever been subjected. I put it down to obsessiveness – that is, fixed enthusiasm sometimes to the point of neurosis. Nonetheless getting on one’s horse and riding off in all directions is hardly the answer to creative composition. Here I must defer to Jacob’s lucidity and prior assessment. It is after all a small compliment to one’s writing to trumpet its speedy anatomy.