A number of years ago, I read a book by a writer about writing and the gist of one of the chapters was that if you were not compelled to write every day, then you weren't really a writer. I accepted this as truth, probably because I was at an impressionable age, and also because the romanticism of the idea appealed to me. Thereafter, every day when I didn't or couldn't write made me feel like I was just a literary pretender. I still feel it. Whenever people ask me how my second book is going, and I have to admit that it isn't really, not since before the littlest was born, I feel like such a hobbyist.
I have good intentions. Each morning I really do believe that I'll be able to sit down for an hour at least and get some writing work done. And by the time 9 pm rolls around and I still haven't spent any time writing, all I want to do is drink my glass of wine and fall asleep. Someone once suggested I wake up at 4:30 in the morning and work for a couple of hours before the kids get up. And that was such a genius plan. All the way up until the alarm went off. Obviously, I have to get real. I am not going to have a regular productive hour to myself every day, not if I also want to be any good at keeping my kids healthy, safe and entertained.
Does that make me a fake writer? I don't think so. I think it makes me a writer who, like so many other writers trying to keep a roof over their heads and food on their tables, has another job that eats up most of my daytime hours. Whoever wrote that chapter about real writers having to write every day must have been a very well-paid professional.* But, if I don't ever write, then nothing gets written. (I don't have the square footage for infinite monkeys or typewriters, after all.) So, how to go about writing this second book?
If you came here looking for some revolutionary new writing technique, I am about to disappoint you. This is the incredibly mundane answer I've come up with: Open the W.I.P. file. every morning. Whenever a few moments are available, work on getting down one pretty good sentence. That seems like something I can accomplish. And now, when somebody asks how things are going with the second book I can at least say, "Slowly."
*Unfortunately I can't remember who wrote it, or from what book.
I read an article a few months ago with the very best title: Stop Using Poet Voice. It's a must-read for anyone who's ever been to a literary reading or had the intention of participating in one. If you don't know what Poet Voice is, be very glad, and then read this description from the article.
“Poet Voice,” is the pejorative, informal name given to this soft, airy reading style that many poets use for reasons that are unclear. The voice flattens the musicality and tonal drama inherent within the language of the poem and it also sounds overly stuffy and learned. In this way, Poet Voice does a disservice to the poem, the poet and poetry. It must be stopped.
And it's not just poets that read their work like this. Poet Voice is everywhere. I attended a reading a few years back with a panel of authors, one a well-known Canadian fiction writer, the second, a British writer of historical romance, and the third, another Canadian writer whose book was about dissociative identity disorder. Obviously, they presented a range of material (a traumatic stillbirth, a getaway on horseback, a dialogue between the main character's ego personality and one of the alters) but they all read their chosen passages in an exceedingly slow, very nearly monotone. I understand the motivation. We all want to be taken seriously and Poet Voice does sound deadly serious, but it's also incredibly boring and makes us all sound pompous.
But here's the thing. I'm going to read publicly from Fathom Lines at the end of October and I, like so many others, am slightly uncomfortable with the sound of my voice. Obviously, I'll be recording myself a lot in the weeks to come, because I'm a nerd, and to ensure I'm not even close to doing Poet Voice. But give me some advice. I know there are actors and teachers and singers who read this blog occasionally--all of you have normalized the way you use your voice in public. Any tips? My writer buddy Emily suggests that I not use different voices when I do dialogue bits. Hahaha! She's obviously been to some more entertaining readings than I have!
This is funny and kind of related: Nina Millin does a dramatic monologue of Beyonce's Single Ladies. Enjoy!
Erin Bedford, writer.