Writing Goals

The Art of Finishing: Maintaining Voice

I’m a one-off sort of person. Every now and then I may say or do something inspired, maybe even profound. I have commanded attention with my brilliance, but before I can really revel in the moment, before i can pat myself on the back, I am equally known to follow up my greatness with blatant and embarrassing stupidity.

A fear years ago I was sitting in a lecture when the writing instructor spat out a list of rules and terms he wanted us to use as a writing prompt. I had one of my one-off moments in that lecture. I totally killed the prompt. It as glorious.

For the first time in my life, a one-off moment seemed as if it would last forever. I was able to stretch that brief exercise into nineteen chapters. The new writing style was unfamiliar but every time I sat down to work the characters, the plot, the setting, the voice – all of the confidence of that moment came back to me. It felt like I wouuld be able to pull it off forever.

And then I finished the MFA program and took a break from creative work. In that short time period, I lost it all . I could no longer find the tone, the voice, the pacing. None of it felt accessible.

Since last month, when my writer’s group decided to come back together again, I tried to reenter the story. I tried reading aloud, editing chapters, and freewriting. None of it worked. I only got discouraged.

As I mentioned last week, one of the ladies in the group suggested I work on a character diary so I could get to know my characters’ motivations. And I did. I wrote through different narrator so that I might free myself over the loss of my voice. I wrote knowing that I would never use any of the words for my final project. I wrote and wrote.

Last night, while rereading the last section I’d written in the diary, it all came back. The voice reappeared out of nowhere without warning.

Writers like King and several of my MFA mentors believe in a daily writing practice. Ive tried to commit to such a practice and failed. But now, afer these months of sitting before a blank screen waiting to fall in where I left off, I realized that the secret to consistency is practice. I have to keep the fires burning. Voice, especially this unfamiliar one, needs for me to come back every day in order to interact with it. The voice and I have to remain in constant conversation if we’re ever to know each other well enough to grow together. We have to make whatever sacrified we need to make in order to carry each other through.

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