Friday, May 23, 2008

The Voice of Raison

The hills may be alive with the sound of music, but what about that ambient noise inside the writer's head? Is it the sound of one hand clapping? Perhaps the sound of some idealized version of the writer's voice, dictating the material at hand? Perhaps even a dialog, a free-wheeling exchange of the individual voices of characters, auditioning for their parts in the short story or novel currently under way.

What, the question becomes, do you hear when you are at work on some project that matters in a lasting way to you (as opposed, say, to complaints to companies responsible for unconscionable pricing or service)? Add to that calculus the sound you hear when writing a letter of recommendation for a student , which is to say admission to another graduate program or a position somewhere in the work force such as, gulp, teaching).

You, who think of yourself as being alert to such things, have already decided upon the dichotomy of writers who see the events of which they write and merely produce a description of that vision, and writers who hear the work in progress being dictated to them from some internal source. You have always fancied yourself a hearer, thus responding as a stenographer to dictation. You did not ever and do not now make a distinction between which has the better deal, the seer or the hearer the dichotomy simply is, a wired-in trait. Seers may, in time and with practice, reach the point of being able to hear a bit of the detail, but they remain primarily seers in the same balance that hearers may of occasion get a vision of some relevance, but remain in the camp of hearers. All of this is to say there is no middle ground.

Some of this came from Rachel, your primary mentor, who confessed to you early on that she heard voices but was not accordingly to be taken as seriously psychotic. She encouraged you to listen for your own voices. Perhaps because they were already there or perhaps in some measure to please her, you began to listen for then to hear voices of your own. This concept was borne further upon you in conversations with musicians who thought it interesting, even quaint, that writers heard things, volunteering the exciting to you information that what they heard as not always the instrument they played but some other instrument entirely.

You now live in harmony with your acceptance of the inner voice, your concerns now depending on tings you have to do to get access to the voice. In this process, you surely have rewired or reinforced existing circuitry in the thought process to the point where you recognize the presence of a Narrative Voice that is "on" much of the time, vacating the stage when your Critical Self, elbows thrusting and jutting, bullies its way center stage. Your Critical Self is not a particularly nice person, a bit of a schoolyard bully, directing his spleen equally against you, your Narrative Voice, and anyone or anything it thinks it can get away with bullying. Nor is it free of sudden irrational surges of resentment, schadenfreude, jealousy. You own him and the one major benefit of your recognition of his presence is that it allows you greater access to your Narrative Voice. In fact, sometimes, when Narrative Voice seems off on a Club Med vacation somewhere, inaccessible for the chores at hand, you are able to reach it by cell phone or IM simply by turning in the Critical Self, who dislikes everything, including parts of you. The closest iconic figure to Critical Self you know of is Donald Duck, whose tizzies and fussiness serve as a constant reminder of what awaits you should you allow him to guide you down the paths of passionate engagement.

The next closest iconic figure to appear, sometimes even at dress rehearsals, is Your Idealized Narrative Voice, whose basic trait is a tendentiousness or, if you will, serious pomposity. Sometimes he actually wins the part, gets to go on for page after page, lecture after lecture, alas. He is a defense against your true semblance, your true frere, Captain Spaulding. Amidst this ensemble cast, your true Narrative Voice awaits, no mere compromise candidate who contains elements of the others but rather that truer self who has learned how to filter out the excesses in early drafts, who knows when to shift channels until the correct one steps forth, nods, then begins the soliloquy that contains the work at hand.

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