When I was a college freshman I wrote a reflective essay for an English Lit class. It was of a deeply personal nature, the subject emotionally raw. My professor wrote in the margin “This is superb writing. Not only have you managed to gain insight from a painful part of your life, but you have the wherewithal to write it down. I am submitting your essay for competition. Fine work. I cannot find enough praise for this."
Huh. I was pleased with my grade but puzzled at his praise for having the wherewithal in the first place. I thought, “doesn’t everyone?” Isn’t that what all writers do? I don’t know any other way to write unless I pull from something deeply personal, whether it’s explicitly spelled out in the piece or not, even my self-deprecating tongue-in-cheek humor is buried somewhere where the bodies are buried in my soul. Over the years I’ve realized the answer is NO, many have the wherewithal but not many choose the wherewithal.
**Real writers, you may turn away now.
I have something earth-shattering to say.**
I don’t care about proper style anymore.
**Real writers, you may re-enter the zone**
I have decided that crafting my own style is, well….my own style.
I forget to take a breath and lose a comma. If there is no room or logical use for a parenthesis, I will create one. Who have we become anyway, O Perfect connoisseurs of prose, the Sidebar Police? You should hear me speak in person. People wonder when I’m going to turn blue. That could be a long agonizing death for a southern girl. Mucho (and macho) love to those of you who are regular recipients of my texting/phone call/email ramblings on a particularly verbose day. You know who you are. I know you put the phone down and walk away ‘til I’m through and don’t tell me those I’ve-got-a-beep excuses are true. I know better.
I once watched a man who knew me well, take my Italian flailing hands and hold them to my side during a blaring “debate” of the Mars Venus variety and dare me to continue talking. I could not.
That’s how I became me.
I’ve even thrown grammar to the wind. Have you noticed my affinity for ellipses? And hula skirts? **May I direct your attention to my blog header?**
ands and ending with propositional prepositions and dangling diddies? And why am I suddenly using asterisks today? Liberating!!! *******!!
I dare ya to call the asterisk police. I dare ya!!
If it doesn’t sound like me talking to me, on the paper, in my head, if it is not pleasing to myself when I read it…if I don’t laugh at my own comedy, cry at my own sorrow and am not moved again when I’ve read it over a hundred times, then I know it is not good. Actually, being good is not my goal; being authentic is.
My English professor’s surprising praise in the margin became a permanent mark. He taught me to trust the sound of my writing.
And the swish of my skirt.
Cause after all, it's mine, and belongs to no one else.
Cause after all, it's mine, and belongs to no one else.
It’s interesting not only from a writer’s point of view but from a musician’s as well. My voice teacher during rep class one day said a similar thing. She scowled at me when I was having a particularly hard time interpreting a piece from Samuel Barber’s song cycle (op. 29) Hermit Songs. Barber was one of the greatest expressive American Art Song lyricists of our time, known for setting and accentuating the natural stress of words into perfectly imperfect musical phrases. I was so moved by the words he chose to set in his masterpiece, "The Crucifixion", that I allowed the lyrics to fight against the melody, creating a strain in my voice - what I call a vocal divorce. My teacher wanted a marriage. She looked at me and said
“Mimi, you have to learn to love the sound of your own voice.”
Even as I write this essay on the tenets of reflective essays past and present, famed American composers, what makes me tick, and why I will not be writing one anytime soon….I write one.
I, apparently, have learned to love the sound.
I love the sound of it.
One of you recently said to me, "Your blog has always been about your own evolution."
You mean people knew that? All the while I thought you were learning something new.
Edith Wharton and Kate Chopin, they do not need an echo in this world. Neither do you. Nor I. How do you think E. E. Cummings became e.e. cummings? He didn't care about style much either. And even if Edith hadn't written a prologue to the prologue explaining why and how she came to write Ethan Frome, I would have loved Ethan anyway - even if she did have strange pets.
I want my writing to sound like a conversation. I want my writing to read like a conversation. I want my writing to speak. To me. For then I am sure (thank you Professor Dear) that it will speak to you. Now I’m having a conversation about conversations and writing about not writing. You must be on your fourth cup of coffee by now.
This week I have a lot of scrambled eggs to unscramble, or is that the other way around? My brain took a bit of a jar in a car. I don’t know exactly how to be at the moment. But I'm thinkin' that's a gift. Nothing like slightly unraveled eggs to hunker down one's purpose. I may have misplaced my wherewithal for a moment you see. It comes and goes.
But this I know.
The story I see in my head is in bed with and married to the paper.
Every now and again, it's good for me to say so. To myself. (You can listen if you want.)
Keeps me hunkered down to why I'm here in the first place.
A once-upon-a-boyfriend gingerly said to me when I referred to myself as a writer.... "But you haven't published anything. How can you be a writer?" Oh, I bristled. He knew it. Even I can see, O-Once-Upon-A, that Amazon has no shelf that looks like this. YET. Writers are writers because they write. As musicians are musicians because they make music. As singers are singers because they sing. As painters are painters because they paint. I am visualizing the bookstore shelf and working as hard as I can.
I will dance on that table. Soon.