Thursday, 28 February 2013

Sometimes I don't know what any of this means

Almost a year ago now, the Globe and Mail  ran a great article about the increasing use of voice in today's essay writing--about, in fact, the increasing use of the essay in most of our online publications. I thought of this article again last week while leafing through the latest issue of The New Quarterly and reading the great piece in there by DW Wilson. Said essay, titled "On The Notoriously Overrated Powers of Voice in Fiction", made me smile in all kinds of ways. It's a sweet piece, about how we work to be writers and readers while also doing silly things like falling in love with unattainable people and whatnot, and how that relates (or doesn't) to propelling our work forward.

And then there was this article, earlier in February, in the National Post. (The great Stacey May does it again.) And then this one, once more by SMF, just last week. And then this one, by that superhero I've mentioned before, about being proud and transparent in leading the public life that all of us writers are exposed to, and essentially now expected to live, at least on some level.

In and around all of these questions of voice, and how-much-is-too-much, and how does one fight the good fight as a writer and search to always tell the truth, I thought: and then there's me. Bumbling and wavery and unsure in the midst of all of these much more powerful, much more eloquent voices.

Sometimes (most of the time, despite the fact that these little spills of potentially-TMI come with frightening regularity) I sit down in front of this handy little blog interface on my laptop and think: What the hell am I doing? Who am I to talk about anything at all? Who in their right mind wants to listen to me?

I lob questions out into the universe. I don't usually expect answers, at least not right away. I wait to see if the world will reveal them to me, and when--if the answers that I get in a week or two are different from the answers that I got to the same questions five years ago. If the answers that I get in the distant future are complete reversals of what I found out for myself decades previous. And on and on it goes.

Sometimes this worries me because I wonder what it means for my own voice--my own writing, my own style. I so admire the writers that I've made mention of above because they seem to be able to put their convictions down on paper in ways that I do not. What, for example, does it mean to be a feminist in this day and age? The question fascinates me. Am I less of a feminist if my tendency is to step back and make my own life in quiet ways? If I, say, co-found a fun little campaign that also has as its aim the wider implications of freedom of speech and nudity on one's own terms and that tricky little dance that the author plays with self-censorship--that is, the ability to put parts of oneself on paper for all to see while also maintaining some secret, shadowed sense of hidden heart--does this then give me the responsibility and the duty to be coherent about it, all of the time? Must one be forthrightly political if one dares to venture out into the present day written world and let loose with I think I have something to say?

And what, exactly, does it mean to have a "voice" if you recognize, on some level, that your voice is constantly changing? Or maybe it's not the voice that changes so much as the things that one talks about. The questions of one's heart and mind. Are you less of a writer if the constant questions that you carry with you are not always Important? If I admit that some of the constant questions I ask centre around boys and girls--what then? Around will you won't you love me why not? Did Virginia Woolf worry about this? Probably. But if she had been able to blog, would she have also felt the urge to throw these things out into the air, publicly, and from this slap her writer's voice together? Probably not.

Can a blog post be an essay? Can something be an essay if the only conviction at the end of it is that the questions just don't stop?

In other, perhaps not entirely unrelated news, I'm feeling wanderlusty again, which doesn't really surprise me. Itching for the West Coast, or any coast, maybe a coast in Europe. No doubt this has a lot to do with the weather. I've had enough of the snow.

Oh, to be independently wealthy, and able to fly to warmer climes at a moment's notice...

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