Voice in my “Why I Write” Post

Before re-reading my Why I Write post, I was convinced the words would be unrecognizable; I would review it and immediately write it off as something I had written on a whim, and, if I were to write it again, would look completely different. Having said this, I was quite surprised by the level of familiarity I had with my writing. This seems to be a common theme in my life as a writer–with each draft I write, I imagine words that are so quickly thrown together that they couldn’t possibly be my voice, when in reality, these moments are when my most prominent thoughts are best communicated. So, while I recognize my voice within the written words, I believe a key component of my own thought process when considering why I write is missing in my writing: uncertainty.

When I crafted my response, I wasn’t confident in exactly why I write.  I had a few ideas, but with every thought came ten more suspicions. Instead of honoring these questions by weaving them into my response, however, I chose to edit them out. I wrote and deleted, wrote and deleted, until a half hour had flown by and I only had a few sentences to show for it. With each sentence I wrote, I knew there was a better way to communicate my thought, and I chose to get hung up on each and every word instead of expressing my thoughts as they came to me, regardless of clarity. Uncertainty was a key component of my brainstorming process–and my resulting voice–but it wasn’t successfully translated into my writing.

This isn’t to say that this uncertainty is to be present in every single one of my writing assignments–there are some essays I spend months on and subsequently become very confident with my arguments, and therefore don’t exhibit great levels of uncertainty. In an assignment such as this one, however, where I am instructed to state my thoughts in a informal response-like format, I believe my writing could have benefitted form an expression of uncertainty. I would have been able to look back on my writing when constructing subsequent drafts and follow my thought process more clearly. Instead, I am left to review a response where much of the small but crucial components of my thought process have been omitted. Further, the lack of uncertainty present in my writing invites a false image of expertise. In this case, I think a bit of questioning and apprehension would have created words that more genuinely reflected my own thoughts and honored my voice.

Still trying to figure out voice

An essential element of answering the question of whether or not my “Why I Write” draft is in my voice is knowing what my voice is. To be completely honest I still have no idea what “my voice” is. When it comes to writing, voice is never really something I think about. As always, I try to answer whatever prompt I am given to the best of my ability, whether it be a prompt that was assigned to me or one I made up myself to guide my writing. Therefore, writing tends to be a highly meditative process for me, involving a lot of erasing and re-writing as I go along. When I think of voice I think of something that comes naturally, which leads me to believe that most of the writing I do is not in “my voice.”

However, when I re-read my first draft, I can’t say that it is not written in my voice – even though it is hard for me describe what my voice is. This leads me to believe that I wrote my “Why I Write” piece in one of many voices that I put on, varying based on the circumstance for the writing. I just spent a month engrossed in research to produce a literature review on evolutionary theories for grooming behavior in non-human primates. The result? A dry, scientific-paper primarily made up of other people’s ideas. However, I did paraphrase those ideas into “my own words.” While I wouldn’t necessarily want to claim the style of that paper as my voice, I think it would be fair to say that it is a voice of mine used in writing that has to be professional, clear, and succinct.

The voice in my “Why I Write” paper is very much a voice that comes out when I am thinking very in depth about a subject, and translating those thoughts onto paper as seamlessly as possible. This strategy often results in a stream of rather incoherent, superfluous sentences that I then have to edit to make sense. I believe the ultimate result is a mixture of writing that is both my voice and not my voice. So, is the rough draft in my voice? Yes and no. I do think that writing this blog and continuously going through my draft has helped me to pinpoint which parts of the draft are in fact my voice and which parts are not.

Am I Me?

We were asked to address whether or not our first take on the “Why I Write” draft was true to our perception of what our voice is.

Short answer: Yes.

Long answer: Idk–maybe, dude?

I always feel a little bit like that fish in the asthma commercials that were popular in like 2009 when asked to stake a claim regarding my voice. Flipping and flopping around, in obvious discomfort, but safely returned to the bowl because PETA would have a field day otherwise. I’m obviously in discomfort but ultimately I know that the harm that will befall me when I fail to answer is only superficial.

I’d like to say this initial gut description of what compels me to write is fitting with the “witty” voice I’ve built over a lifetime of pen stroke chatter. I try to say that about everything I do though, even the really boring business reports I have to write that are way too long and way to devoid of mistake, humor, personality and warmth in general. Ya know, business-y stuff. But even with that, I try to bring in me in the ways I structure sentences and phrase things. My formatting and structure also help me build a cohesive professional paper me. It’s the equivalent of wearing a blazer. Underneath is still the girl that probably forgot to put on deodorant and is trying to cover up her doughy palms. Me just dressed up.

That’s how I feel about my writing voice for the most part. That no matter what I do, someone will inevitably be able to tell it was me who wrote it–assuming that they’ve read my work before that is. Because what I’ve found is that my writing voice, though relatively constant, is unrecognizable unless it’s been read by someone before. People are shocked it’s mine. Not sure what that says about me as a in-real-life person (actually I do and it’s that I’m boring), but if it means that I put on a voice, then that’s something I’ve come to terms with.

I guess the real question though, and one I’ve never been able to answer truthfully, is which one is it? Which one do I put on? The one I write with or the one I talk with everyday?

Why I Write, vers 1

I wrote this piece in my voice.
Not in my real voice, mind you, because there’s really no use to writing if it’s going to be in the same voice you use for talking. No, this piece is written in my voice, that is to say the voice I have distilled my voice into being when writing a piece as introspective as this one: succinct enough to sound as though I am to be taken seriously, but whimsical enough as to seem quirky yet relatable, characteristics which my real voice would have a tough time portraying.
This voice, while one of many voices I use when writing, is still my voice, and still feels as authentic as one I would speak in. Just like I vary the way I speak depending on whom I am speaking to, I vary the voice I write in depending on the subject matter and the intended recipient. Even know I’m using a different voice: “intended recipient.” I don’t talk like that in real life, but for whatever reason, here it seems like the perfect way to communicate what I intended. Perhaps I don’t ever write in only one voice at all; perhaps I mix all of the voices I’ve developed over the years into one, drawing from different messages and sounds at different times in order to communicate different things to specific audiences.
All I know is that voice, these voices, are mine.

Why I Write: Voice

The voice I wrote my “Why I Write” piece in is a voice I recognize, but not my natural voice.  By natural, I mean my normal speaking voice or the voice I use when writing to friends or family members that I feel completely comfortable with.  However, this is written in a very typical writing voice of mine.  I recognize this voice as my go to academic voice.  It’s the voice I use when writing papers for class.  This is not surprising to me because I very rarely write in my normal speaking voice.  I always take on a more refined tone in my writing unless the occasion explicitly calls for something else.  Whenever I write, I think that I default to this voice as I am so used to using it.  It is not excessively professional, however it is fairly straight to the point and doesn’t show many levels of my personality.

My Voice[s]

I wrote my first “draft” of Why I Write in a quasi-bullet point-paragraph-outline format–I basically just let my fingers spit out the words in my head with very little mediation in between. I suppose that could mean that it truly was my voice, since I made very little effort in trying to make my sentences sound any certain way. However, I wonder if perhaps my writing that is mediated with extra effort and purposeful tone and voice is also another real voice of mine. I don’t believe in many absolutes in general, so along those lines I don’t think I believe in having one voice–that sounds awfully boring, really. I sometimes like to play around with different voices in my personal writing. I don’t mean that people have multiple greatly differing voices, because evidenced by a good majority of writing out in the world that doesn’t seem to be the case, but I think there are variations within one’s voice that can come out in different works of writing. In my opinion, even writing that seems voiceless, such as research or scientific writing or lists, can have a variation of one’s voice, because they involve choices related to words, syntax, and other aspects of language. So yes, I do believe that I wrote my Why I Write in my voice, or at least in one of them, but it will probably–hopefully–develop and transform as my essay goes on.

The Voice

While completing my “Why I Write” assignment, I wasn’t really focused on writing. It was late, I wanted to go to bed, but I had a spark of motivation to do it mid teeth-brushing, so I decided to get it done. I whipped it up in about twenty minutes, and then closed my laptop and went to bed.

The next day, I re-read what I had written, and was surprisingly shocked. It sounded like my typical writing style and it had some pretty decent points in it. The piece was most definitely written in my “voice” and didn’t fall short from what writing style I typically produce.

In class we were also asked if it was written in one of the many voices that you have, and to be honest, I’m not quite sure if I have multiple voices. I’m not actually quite sure what my voice is either, I just know it when I see it. Maybe I do have multiple voices, as I feel like it’s difficult not to change the voice for different types of writings, but I think it’s safe to assume that they all derive from one overarching voice that I always somewhat write in even though sometimes it’s adapted.

In regards to the content of my “Why I Write,” I can assure that the content is very specific to myself. I give concrete examples for why I wrote in different periods of my life, allowing the reader to hear about my journey but apply the feelings and reasons to their own life. As a result of this, the reader is able to appreciate my story but then also think about their own more in depth.

Re-Visiting “Why I Blog”

It’s funny, after re-reading Sullivan’s “Why I Blog” I sat here and pondered what I wanted to write, not daring to type a single word until a well-thought out discussion had been thought of. And then I remembered that this is a blog and I literally just got done reading about how blogging is all about action, all about the now. And I realized that I needed to start writing in this very moment!

But in all seriousness, I agree with Sullivan that blogging is an excellent medium to allow you to get your spur of the moment thoughts out there. So much of my time writing has been spent sitting there and waiting for inspiration to come to me or being afraid to start writing those first few words with the fear that they will be absolutely terrible. I want to get back to the reason that I really wanted to pursue the minor in writing in the first place: the fact that I think I am hilarious and I narcissistically love to read my own thoughts, especially the ones written late at night when my sarcasm is at an all-time high. As I most likely will be planning on using my work from the minor for more professional reasons, I most likely will not be including any of these late night thoughts in any of the pieces that will make it to my ePortfolio, but I do enjoy the opportunity to write these blog posts and share my thoughts as they come to me.

Clearly, Orwell and Didion and their “Why I Write” pieces come from different times than Sullivan’s “Why I Blog”, so they were not able to give their two cents on this fairly new form of self-expression. However, I think that Didion would really enjoy blogging, just in its very free and readily accessible nature that Sullivan touches on. Didion writes in order to make sense of the world around her and to provide a story to the things that only she can see. With so much quickly changing, I can see Didion being the type of person who rushes to grab a napkin to jot down her thoughts while they are still in her head, like someone who keeps a dream journal next to their bed so they can capture the dream’s essence before it slips away. Blogging could provide Didion a way to quickly respond to her thoughts and keep a log of her experiences, allowing her to keep living without anything bogging her down.

I see Orwell as the opposite, as someone who needs the rules and formal notions of professional writing to keep him grounded. He clearly states that writing for political purposes has been his main drive because he feels that that is what provided the most significance and necessary opinion of the time. I do not think that Orwell would like either the unpolished nature of the blog or the easily available interaction with readers. I can see Orwell wanting all of his thoughts and arguments to be well thought over and to get to have the last word with his audience; anything else would lessen his credibility.

Why I Write: My Voice

I think the draft I submitted of Why I Write is a solid attempt at representing my voice in this context. In much of my writing I use satire or sarcasm, but this piece of writing was a little more serious and therefore that aspect of my voice was left out. I had a detailed personal anecdote that allowed me to add some narration and show how I would act in certain situations rather than just tell my readers. I think using examples of real life is always more effective than telling someone “I like to write because I like to make a point” or something along the lines of just stating facts. Self reflections and personal analysis are something I am not used to writing and therefore I’m not entirely sure what my voice is. I’m not taking a stance on anything, proving a point, or making any jokes. This prompt is so different from what I am used to writing that I don’t know whether I am representing my voice correctly or even at all. I definitely want to go back and see what about my voice in other pieces of my writing I can take and add to this. I wrote it almost formally and was trying solely to answer the question rather than make it a unique piece of writing.

Writer to Writer, to Writer

“The best writers reveal something about themselves that a smarter person would choose to hide.”

“Don’t wait to be inspired—work to be inspired.”

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Sitting beside the walls of the café in the Literati Bookstore felt like reading a book that I never wanted to put down. The walls are filled with quotes from professors and writers, and each and every quote spoke to the fears, questions, doubts, and hopes that I feel each time I sit before a blank piece of paper. In that quaint and intimate setting, looking over the streets of downtown Ann Arbor, in a room of so many smiling and curious people, I could not help but feel inspired.

Phil Deloria had me from the moment he told us that at first, he did not want to be a writer because his father was a writer. Right then, my ears perked up, and I was ready to listen to anything and everything he had to say. For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to blaze my own trail: my parents grew up in Long Island, I grew up in Long Island; my parents went to Michigan, I go to Michigan; my dad studied abroad in Spain for a semester, I am studying abroad in Spain next semester; my parents went to law school; I am doing anything and everything to remind myself that I have no interesting in becoming a lawyer. But sometimes, while trying to convince myself that I am not a robot clone—living a life that has been lived before by my parents, uncles, and second cousins—I remind myself that it is not about blazing your own trail; it is about blazing your trail. Becoming a writer does not mean that Phil Deloria is following in his father’s footsteps; it only means that he is following his own desires, and that he is strong enough to put aside his pride and stubbornness, and his fear of becoming his father, and just be who he wants to be.

In my work for the minor so far, I have been drawn to the idea that we must make the most of each moment, and refuse to let a moment pass you by. It was almost like Deloria was speaking to me, when he said, “To get ideas, you need to move through the world with one-hundred-percent attention…Grab that little weird thing…the first step is to see stuff; the second is to not let it pass you by.” Everything he said about moments is everything I have been trying to say, and it is the reason why I write. I write to hold on to moments; I always try to grab those little weird things and tear them apart with thoughts and words alike, until there is nothing left to say. If you do not write it down, you could lose it forever.

My favorite thing that he talked about, however, was his idea about “the life” and the idea of life as a spa. He discussed how sometimes, in times of pure bliss and relaxation, like at a spa, you think to yourself “this is the life.” Deloria looked at the audience, and said, “drop the ‘the’; Just say, ‘this is life.’” This blissful, relaxing spa-like life should just be the life that we all strive to live every day. We need to take advantage of life’s small moments and simple pleasures. Make the life your life.