Monday, June 18, 2007

Writing to find one's voice

We just returned from a long weekend with our family at an inn in the mountains of North Carolina where we spent a blissful, relaxing three days gazing at the mountain, napping in the afternoons, chatting and reading on the porch. I experienced my first massage, which I fear could become a serious addiction. During these lazy days, I read The Book of Lost Things, a novel inspired by the dreams and fairy tales of childhood, which I enjoyed immensely. I anticipate posting a review in a day or two. I returned home rested, relaxed and completely resistant to the idea of working on my research.

In lieu of re-entering the dysphoric state that "real" work brings on and ruining my post-vacation serenity, I prefer to hide in my study and pretend to work. Today, I have a few thoughts on writing (obviously I am rather obsessed with this topic of late). I recently began sharing my writing (both my blog and my research) with my husband. He told me a day or two ago that when I write, I seem to have a voice; he glimpses personality, even recognizes a distinct persona in my writing. Why is it that I feel so much more comfortable on paper than I do face to face? I have such trouble with interpersonal communication, particularly conferences and meetings. It’s not that I am socially awkward or lacking in appropriate social skills. I just don’t think well on my feet. I can never think of anything to say spontaneously; I am terrible at small talk. It is as if my mind is a void; I don’t feel anything; my personality retreats. When writing, I reflect, collect my thoughts, weigh the impact of my word choices, edit, revise, polish, and improve. I can manipulate my thoughts to my satisfaction, a quality that is utterly absent in spontaneous speech. Writing is my substitute for talking, in a sense. It is my effort at self-expression. When my self-expression is stifled, when I do not allow myself time to write, garden, cook, sew, decorate my home, have lunch with a friend, I grow very depressed. And my research writing suffers. Funny how that works, isn’t it? If I take time away from the research, I ultimately produce more, but if I force myself to do nothing but the research, I accomplish very little. I feel as though I have been trying to communicate my thoughts for ages and haven’t been able to find my voice. Writing seems to be the antidote. I have read that writing anxiety is akin to social anxiety in that it requires exposure of the self and ultimately, the completion of tasks. The experience gained by regular practice gradually increases competency and lessens anxiety. To find one’s voice through writing is to acknowledge one’s creative individuality, to quietly, yet assertively recognize one’s power: I have original, novel thoughts and am capable of effectively expressing them in order to persuade, to entertain, to instruct, to claim my place in the world. Profound stuff, isn’t it?


Maggie said...

Quite deep, now get back to reading your southern book. Man, I would have thought that porch the perfect setting for Flannery! :D