Thursday, January 2, 2014

My Voice

My husband works for a company that gives all of its employees time off of work from Christmas Eve through New Year's Day.  Jared is always so excited to have this vacation.  I don't have time to get excited because I'm busy doing December for my entire family.

Last year we decided to selfishly keep Christmas Day as a sacred day for the five of us to stay home and pretend there's not a world outside our house.  It was glorious.  This year we continued that tradition.  All of a sudden, I remembered that I eventually get to participate in Christmas Vacation (after Christmas Eve, before Nora's birthday on the 27th, and then again after her party before Jared returns to work).

I completed a 500-piece puzzle and a 1,000-piece puzzle, both Christmas gifts from Jared.  I read the second and third books from The Hunger Games series.  I loved them and realized that seeing the movie of The Hunger Games is surely not sufficient, and I should probably go back and read the first book.  My nephew recommended the book Divergent, so I read it as well as the second book in that trilogy.  I've placed a hold on the third and final book in that series (I rent ebooks from the library on my Kindle), but I'm 47th in line.  It may be a while.

I thought I might have time for one last book-for-pleasure before Vacation ends and I have to go back to reality.  Back to full-time parent.  Back to schedule-keeper, referee, and chauffeur who only gets to read in the car parked at the boys' school waiting for the bell.  And that reading time is reserved for my Sunday School lesson or my Bible study homework.

I perused several lists of top-selling books of 2013 and most recommended books of the year.  I found one of those popular books available for borrowing on my kindle:  Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.  I finished all 415 pages yesterday, the last day of Vacation.

Reading for pleasure reminds me how much I want to write.  Since I only read for pleasure during Christmas Vacation and sometimes over the summer, I seem to forget about this effect until it unexpectedly sweeps over me.  Then it's been so long since I've thought about writing--really writing--that I feel rusty and useless, like a once-famous ballerina who now sits Alzheimer's-ridden in a nursing home and has a flash of clarity remembering the thrill of being onstage.

I've never found my voice as a writer.

I can write a craft tutorial and pretend I'm not annoyed that I have to spend time editing my pictures in Photoshop so they look like I took them in the right lighting (I never take them in the right lighting).  Then the pictures have to be resized so they don't take up all of my free photo storage for my blog.  Then I have to write the instructions and pretend not to be crushed by the fact that there are already hundreds of tutorials just like mine.  But I like showing what I've made and telling how I've made it just in case someone somewhere might someday like to make it, too.  So my voice is partly The Tutorial Girl.

I enjoy sharing my recipes because, as I've already stated for the record, food is my official love language.  I like to feed people.  And if you're too far away for me to feed, maybe I can at least help you feed/love someone near you.  So my voice includes The Accessible Chef.

I'm also The Striving Christian, The Purposeful Mom, and--of course--The Perfectionist.

If all of these components were a complete representation of my voice as a writer, then I would feel more satisfied.  Less dutiful.  Less stuck in the shoulds.  I should blog more often.  I should write about Nora's birthday party, even if it's just a factual report of what I viewed to be a non-noteworthy but comfortingly low-key party.  I should keep my writing light and informative.  I should be Blog Jessica.

In the last week I've read five books by three authors.  Suzanne Collins, author of The Hunger Games series, kept her books action-packed with enough descriptions to keep me hooked.  Veronica Roth, author of the Divergent series, kept up the action but lost me in some of her descriptions.  I never could accurately picture any of the faction headquarters.  It was like when Jared gives me driving directions, and somewhere after the third turn I give him a faint smile and say, "You already lost me, Babe."  I learned not to get caught trying to follow Roth's descriptions so I could continue following the action.  Gillian Flynn, author of Gone Girl, focused almost solely on descriptions.  I enjoyed some of her writing (describing the main character's childhood toys, including a Strawberry Shortcake doll now void of its scent), but I often found myself frustrated by the lack of forward motion in the plot line.  I stuck it out to the end of the book, determined to finish, which turned out to be a foolish mistake.

As I read each book, I assessed how I felt about each author's writing style.  I measured what parts of their voices I liked and disliked.  Leave it to me to think I can only find My Voice by first hearing the voices of all published authors, thinking I should be a compilation of all the "good" parts of everyone else.

Once again, I'm basing who I should be on who everyone else is.

I do it every time I blog.  I start with an idea of what I want to write.  Then my words go through a series of filters, one filter for each person I presume will be reading:  family members, friends, strangers.  What's left is usually about 18% me and 82% the me I think will be most acceptable to everyone else.  Not exactly My Voice.

I don't write about anything dark or twisty.  I once told Jared that the most interesting parts of my story will likely remain unwritten.  Not because I don't want to tell my stories, but because my stories overlap with other people's stories, and those other people haven't chosen to share our intersecting stories with the world.  I'm sure my friends and family members could write a thing or two about me.  And I don't even want to think about what kind of writing material I've already given my kids, and we still have years of mistakes to make.  With these thoughts in mind, I try to be respectful of the other people in my stories.

So here I am without a clue how to proceed.  I feel like Nora and her newfound love of ballet.  She's delighted to practice and loves to look the part, but she's utterly unpolished and basically making it up as she goes.

Add it to the list of components of My Voice:  The Preschool Ballerina.


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