The Voice, The Voice, The Voice

If I’m being honest, nothing I write is truly my “voice.”  In the real world, where real people are, I’m unable to speak as clearly as I do in writing.  I never say things that are nearly as profound, and I most definitely don’t speak at the same vocabulary level.  It’s not that I write in a more sophisticated way than I speak, it’s just that in person I speak loud and quickly.  In doing so, I’m unable to press delete, go back, and correct myself.  I am a plethora (new word I learned) of figures of speech that I’m vaguely familiar with.  When I want to get an idea across, I want to get it across as quickly and easily as possible.  Which inevitably leads me to eagerly venturing into the territory of half-learned phrases that I embarrassingly say way too often.

($5.00 to whoever can find all of the ones I use in here.)

Another thing:  I’m not that funny.  I mean I’m funny, but not funny.  Does that make sense?  If given the time and the appropriate amount of alcohol, yeah, I’ll make you laugh, but if I can just type?  Give me 20 words to butter you up and I’ll have you doing anything I want.  Seriously.

Listen:  I’m insecure.  (Obviously.)  So in truth I don’t really know what my voice is like, what my persona is like.  I have body dismorphia, personality dismorphia, [INSERT ANYTHING]morphia, so it’s really hard to see myself through a truthful, critical eye, because I think everything I create is shit.  I know I make people laugh (sometimes), and I know I’m attractive (sometimes), but does my written voice perfectly correlate with how I speak in real life?  Probably not.  Is my voice in this blog post close to my true “authentic” voice?  Who knows.

I think it’s important to note the reasons I signed up for the minor:

  1. I loved my English 124 class with Jaimien Delp and I craved more creative classes that my Biochemistry major couldn’t provide.
  2. I felt writing was one of my things.  Like I was one of those writer guys and I was quickly losing that.
  3. I wanted to get better.  I felt I lost focus.  I didn’t know if my writing was ever good or not, and I felt myself getting lazier and lazier.  I claimed it as “pushing the boundaries” but the line between passive and innovative is shockingly smaller than you think.

So, no, now that I think about it, I don’t know what my voice is anymore.  I’m smart.  Does that mean my academic essays are more me?  I’m goofy.  Does that mean the parentheses I add in, the sentence fragments, the filler words (e.g. like, I mean), the bitchiness show the real me?

I’ve grown a lot in the past year.  Lots of ups and downs and everywhere in-between.  I’ve cried a few too many times and smoked weed even more.  At this point, I don’t even know what I am.  But, if I’m being honest, I’m probably just being dramatic.

There you have it.

Complete identity crisis in almost* 500 words or less.

Let’s see what the next post brings.

 

 

*531 words, to be exact.

Why I Write: My Voice

When presented with the question of whether or not my Why I Write draft is in my voice, I dreaded this response because I didn’t know what my voice was. But lo and behold, in the archives of my blog posts is one describing just that. So, after re-reading my post dictating my voice as a writer in terms of performance, theme/topic, personality, and formal markers and then re-reading my Why I Write draft, I found my answer. My Why I Write piece embodies my voice to a tee.

My voice is distinguishable by its articulate nature, its honesty, passion and intimacy, and its focus on the arts and entertainment. In my Why I Write piece I emphasize the motives behind my desire to write revolving around my fervent love of the arts and the experiences and challenges I have encountered that guided me to become the writer I am today. Everything about my piece fits perfectly into what demarcates my voice as a writer. When re-reading my voice blog post I reacted with surprise because, besides forgetting that I had written it ergo what I wrote about, I was shocked at not only how accurate it was but how much it informed the contents of my Why I Write piece.

I would say that every paper I have written has been distinct in utilizing this voice, casting a uniform and cohesive blanket over all my writing works. I weave my voice into my academic and informal compositions, writing with a means that justifies its end. In order for me to produce a good piece, it involves emptying the contents of my mind onto a document regardless of how terrible it is or painful to read over. Consequently, my voice is captured in these raw ideas that soon become eloquent phrases and insightful arguments. My Why I Write draft is the perfect exemplification of this.

Is that my voice? I don’t know anymore

When the question of whether or not the voice in my paper is really my voice (as opposed to just a version of it) was first proposed in class I was like um yes of course it’s my voice…I wrote it…that’s what I sound like. But now that it’s been a few hours and I’ve had more time to think about it, I actually don’t know and I’m starting to have an identity crisis. It’s like when you hear a recording of yourself talking and hope to God you don’t actually sound like that.

As far as I can wrap my head around it, it is my voice…sort of. While I pride myself on incorporating voice into my writings, I guess I can’t really say that it is ever 100% my authentic voice. As far as school assignments go, no matter how laid back the assignment is or how personable I’m trying to be, I think it’s always going to be at least a somewhat “cleaned up” version of my voice. The fact that it’s an assignment, and it will be graded, and probably graded by someone I don’t know super well makes me feel as though I shouldn’t sound the same way I do talking to friends I’ve known for a long time and know pretty well. It’s definitely not fake, I’m not trying to be a completely different person, it’s just…different.

While I don’t know that this is ever going to change, I’ve never realized that what I’ve been calling my voice for such a long time is really a polished version of my voice. I now want to find different outlets/ ways of writing where I feel as though I can use my authentic voice, and not the version of my voice I’m now realizing I put on.

Did I Do That? Voice in Regards to “Why I Write”

Reviewing my tentative response to the question “Why do you write?” has only reinforced my belief that the voice of the piece is authentically mine. I think this is due in part to the fact that I have never attempted to tackle this question before. Because I don’t have a concrete answer to this question as of yet, I’m not only answering it for an audience, but also for myself. I have no motivation to use anything other than my own voice when I’m exploring my own thoughts.

 

Is this a good thing? In this case, I would say yes. There are some places where using one’s own voice is inappropriate and/or ineffective. Academic writing, which perhaps makes up the bulk of my textual output, is one such instance. However, when answering a personal question, I can think of no better tone to use than my own. In fact, I would argue that using a tone other than my own would be dishonest. To answer a question by adopting a persona other than my default would tinge my answer with influences uncharacteristic of me.

 

Utilizing my own voice invites one major fault into my writing: overpersonalization. Or at least I would have thought so. Today’s class convinced me otherwise. The concept of overpersonalization is something that no longer worries me because of the idea that specific experiences can be generalized. When someone relays an experience of theirs which I have not endured, I immediately draw parallels to experiences of my own. I don’t need to have had the same experience as someone else because I can identify with elements of anyone’s experience.

 

Experiential identification, whether partial or perfect, is the essence of a piece on the subject “Why do I write?” The bits and pieces with which one can identify are enough for a reader to extract meaning from the essay; the rest can be an exercise of memory or pleasure for the author. The identifiable pieces can be extracted to form meaning, inspiration, entertainment, or any combination of the three. In order to lend the essay as many of these pieces as possible, it is imperative that one utilize their own voice. Without it, an essay on the reason for writing becomes fictitious and meaningless.

Reading Recommendations (as of 11/15)

Some relevant things to read right now:

  • The Book Thief by: Marcus Zusak
  • Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me by: Mindy Kailing
  • Exit, Voice, and Loyalty by: Albert O. Hirschman
  • Ellen DeGeneres’s Facebook page, filled with acts of kindness
  • The Bible
  • Sing to Me: My Story of Making Music, Finding Magic, and Searching for Who’s Next by: L.A. Reid (Rachel–I think this was the right book? If not correct me in the comments)
  • @humansofny (Humans of New York) Instagram account
  • Readings on constitutional law
  • Readings on issues that the Supreme Court will be facing in the near future.
  • The Wave by: Todd Strasser (Will–I think this is the author, clarify if I got it wrong)
  • Card Stacks on Vox.com
  • Encouraging quotes and poems (Shaylyn suggests Maya Angelou’s Still I Rise)
  • Articles on The Guardian (Dennis suggests an article about the long-term strategies of Democrats and Republicans in the last few decades, and how it relates to the Midwest’s Republican vote this election)
  • Articles on Buzzfeed
  • Flipping back and forth between news sites such as BBC News/NYT and less heavy sites like Reddit.
  • “A Letter to America from Leslie Knope” on Vox.com
  • Nixonland and other writings by Rick Perlstein on Goldwater, Nixon and Reagan
  • Don’t Let Me Be Lonely: An American Lyric by: Claudia Rankine

Feel free to comment with clarifications or further suggestions!

Enjoyable Reading

For me, the key to enjoyable reading is relaxation and leisure. I naturally enjoy reading books, especially about subjects that I want to learn more about, and I read a lot during breaks from school. This kind of reading is intrinsically motivational for me. I imagine myself growing smarter and evolving into a better person when I read for pleasure (whether or not this is true is up for debate). The thing that I hate about assigned reading for school is a feeling of being rushed, and a feeling of trying to guess the message that the professor is trying to communicate to me through the reading. I think this is a byproduct of having an anxious personality. The negative emotions of fear, hurriedness, and anxiety that I get from academic assignments causes me to dislike and avoid them.

Recently, a friend told me a story about an experience dropping a computer programming class which I think parallels my stance on unenjoyable reading. Before dropping the class, she was working really hard to finish the first project before the deadline. As she was rushing, and struggling to debug her code, she said that her confidence plummeted and she felt like a “piece of garbage.” After dropping the class, she continued working on the assignment at her own pace. This time, each time she successfully made progress on her code, her confidence was boosted and she felt “like a genius.” To me, reading is the same way. When I feel like I have time to understand a nontrivial idea, reading generates happy emotions and becomes a positive feedback loop. However, when I am rushed and scrambling to finish an assignment, my ego shrinks and I dislike something that I might otherwise find interesting.

Reading and How to Make it Better

I have never been one to say I hate reading. Even among all the Great Gatsby assignments about the symbolic green light and in depth analysis about Of Mice and Men, I was never turned off to the act of reading itself. Getting lost in a good book has always excited me. However, when I got to college I started to realize that reading entailed a lot more than just novels. I am forced to read textbooks, lectures, articles, and lately 19th and 20th century stories about Orientalism in French. As one may assume, this is a lot less exciting. My eyes get tired from constantly skimming over information I couldn’t care less about and stopping every few sentences to take notes to the point where I am utterly sick of reading altogether. When it comes time to relax I find that all I want to do is stare mindlessly at a screen and let someone else put in the effort to tell me a story. After our discussion in class I have come up with a few ways to make reading more enjoyable in the midst of my studies.

  1. Read in bed. Sitting at a desk, the couch, or any other place I am likely to do work is a complete turn off. My bed is where I relax so reading there instead of other places makes it a more relaxing activity rather than a task to get done as quickly as possible.
  2. Read slowly. I have become a fast reader over time and I think this is mainly because I have to be. Reading slow makes it less like an assignment and more like something I actually want to be doing.
  3. Put my phone away. Often times when I’m doing work I use my phone as a reward. One finished chapter or article=a few minutes on my phone. By taking my phone out of the equation I am destressing by removing myself from the world of social media as well as taking away a stressful distraction. No one can remind me that I forgot to do my online reading quiz if I don’t get their texts!
  4. If I don’t like a book, stop reading. I tend to start books because someone recommended it, but often times those “someones” are my friends who are annoyingly obsessed with romance novels. Over the summer I read Girl on the Train because of how much everyone raved about it only to find it slow, depressing, and predictable. Unfortunately, I had to finish because I had started. Being able to stop a book I don’t like is difficult, but I think it will help me read more of what I do like by not wasting my time.

Anne Reading? Heh.

The most difficult part of reading for me is sticking with it. If I read a book, I have to read it in one sitting or have a few days available for me to delve into it. If I don’t, then the issue arises of me trying to start where I left off, not remembering what happened prior, having to re-read the portion I had already read previously, and then normally giving up before reaching any new material because I get bored.

Ways to solve this issue:

  • Allow a large time slot and provide myself with a cozy place to lay down to read. This normally occurs in the summertime at my cottage where there are no obligations, pure sunshine all the time, and the nice background music of Lake Huron.
  • Find better books. I like to try new books all the time that aren’t popularly read or very well known. While this works out often, it also doesn’t work out often. Doing more research about what I’m reading could potentially eliminate the disappointments of some books and rid myself of the hit to my motivation to read.
  • Staying away from people. Literally no one in my life ever stops talking. My mother, Abby, you name it. I either need to buy some muzzles or follow the cheaper route of just locking myself somewhere away from humanity for a little while.

Enjoyable Reading

The key to enjoyable reading is enjoyable content. I could be in a noisy cafe, on a bumpy car ride, in the middle of the jungle, on a beach or in my bed — if I like the book the setting isn’t going to matter to me. That being said, my favorite environment to read a really good book in is my bed at night. I don’t need tea or a snack or music, just time. I love that feeling of being so invested in the book that nothing outside of that moment matters. I forget that I’m in my bed at home and that I have to wake up for my 9am class and instead feel like I’m right alongside the characters in whatever fantasy land they’re in. Often I’ll look ahead and count how many pages are in the next few chapters to decide if I need to mentally prepare myself to stop reading or if I can squeeze in a few more chapters before going to sleep. However if I’m not really enjoying the content of the book, when I put it down after giving it a try or two I’ll probably never pick it up again. My attention span for just an “okay” book is relatively low, but when I actually really like the book I make every effort to pick it up again no matter the setting.