Saturday, March 20, 2010

Losing my voice

Somewhere in the past few months, or perhaps even the last year, I seem to have lost my voice. In the midst of reading back through some old blog posts, and comparing them to both posts here and posts over at Pillar on the Rock, I realized that there is not not only a distinct stylistic difference between past and present but also something of a loss.

I suspect some of this has to do with my capitulation to the long-standing call for simpler writing. It's a worthwhile goal, no doubt, but I made the decision to move in the direction of modernity without considering the impact on my personal voice, or how I might offset that in other ways. Truth be told, I'm still not sure how to write concisely while still maintaining the individual color that makes my writing so distinctly my own.

A few years ago, a friend gave me a very great compliment when she noted that I tend to speak the way I write, while most people write the way they speak. In the time since, I've noted two trends in my speaking: a tendency to slide toward the vernacular, and a slow progression away from the clear enunciation that I once possessed. Both trends annoy me somewhat. Both are the result of peer pressure, though in rather different ways. My enunciation has begun to deteriorate thanks to prolonged exposure to the more slurred mode of speech common everywhere throughout the South, even here in Oklahoma. I do not have any particular disregard for Southern accents; I simply have no desire to pick one up myself. On the other hand, my vocabulary has moved quite consciously, in response to others' comments that I made them feel talked-down to. This, like the change in my writing, is a decision I do not regret, but that I wish I had made more thoughtfully.

It is possible to speak just as carefully and clearly in simpler words as in more complex ones, though perhaps more difficult. Likewise, it is possible, though somewhat challenging, to be both concise and maintain my slightly peculiar approach to writing. I just have no idea how to express myself in a way that is both readable and strange.

I wonder, of course, to what extent we should accommodate ourselves to the whims of culture in these sorts of things. My contrarian (perhaps rebellious is more accurate) streak runs directly contrary to the idea that, if I am going to be read and appreciated by more than my circle of friends and family, I must write in a certain vein... not least because many of the best authors write in ways that thoroughly defy convention. Of course, they get away with it because they are superb and particularly talented writers. I might like to think that I am among the number of supremely talented writers who can, with some careful thought, do what they desire and get away with it, convention thrown out the window. A more realistic accounting of my abilities, however—not to mention my readership—would tend to suggest that I am not, in fact, in that prestigious group, and would thus be better off finding some way to accommodate my preferences to society's tastes, at least if I ever wish to be read.

How to do this is the question of the hour, perhaps indeed of the month. Experiments lie ahead. Perhaps, when all is said and done, I will have found my voice again and found some way as well to make it readable.

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