Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Una Voce Poco Fa

The often neglected benefits of having kept a journal for many years, then beginning this blog back in 2007 relate less to the content and its development and more to the specific use of words, the order in which they appear, the length of sentences within paragraphs, and the balance between the long, complex sentence and the short, emphatic and declarative one.

Most of those daily journals were a step short of free association, written as the words began to resonate in your inner year, for you don't need much reminding that you hear voices, perhaps in respect to your first mentor, Rachel Maddux, whom you met in your early twenties, and who straightaway asked you, after reading some things you'd written, "You do hear voices, don't you?"

At the time, you hadn't given the matter much thought; writing was something you did, without paying too much heed to the causal factors. In reading or recall of your writings, you see a binary arising, starting at about age thirty, when you began to suspect your writing, although facile and edgy enough, was lacking in substance. 

The years between then and now represent the parallel lines you're so fond of talking about in writing classes, one line being the output itself, the other being the forces and causes surrounding it; theme, you might say, versus action.

For the longest time, you heard for the integrity of your ideas, notions, and even questions, wondering if, were you able to arrive at an original idea in the first place, would you be able to recognize it as such. Thus the ongoing relationship with your own inner editor began, holding some measure of sway until you took it to one side, then effected a useful compromise with it: The first draft was to be yours. If you chose to do so, the second draft also belonged to you. At that point, the internal editor was to be welcomed inside.

This detente with your inner editor led you to abandon your preoccupation with originality as a tangible presence. The way to approach it was through your study of the life about you, your readings of the causes and effects of past times, and your engagement with the speculative nature of your own curiosity. 

You still hear Rachel's voice, particularly after she'd moved across the continent to a new life, some greater sense of fulfillment, and then the by-product of her voice during those long, late-night phone calls when her own voice was made husky by a combination of cigarettes and sour mash whiskey.

You hear other voices as well, particularly Mark Twain, who, because you have read and reread so many of his work, and because you took a step that seemed impossible, following him to Virginia City, then securing a job as a correspondent for The Territorial Enterprise, in its way causing you to feel you knew him in person. He died on April 21, 1910, meaning your father was alive, if only a lad, when he lived. But because of your father's own dead-pan ironic visions, it became easy for you to conflate the two voices.

Of course there are other voices. You spent some time capturing the voice of Willa Cather, who indeed you find difficulty in separating from Rachel. There are others as well, men and women with towering voices, clamoring for your attention. Dorothy Parker. John O'Hara. Ring Lardner. F. Scott Fitzgerald.

How do you manage to hear your own in such company? 

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