I sit by the bank of the river. The birds call to me, come swim, jump in. I want to tell them the water is too cold. They mock me and I feel tears start. This is the day my childhood ends.
Okay, I made that up, but just to share an example. I’m worried about imitating that style and not using my own writing voice. I know how I write, especially my blog, where I am most free, having no editorial demands. I use triplets a lot – I list things in threes. I think that’s a hallmark of my writing and I hope it’s a good thing and not contrived or just dumm. This Southern Sin essay is what’s really blowing my mind, especially because my goal is to win the contest. I don’t want it to be stilted and sound phony. Ironically, although I blog like hell (or used to) writing a personal essay seems so daunting. I think I’m approaching it the wrong way. I think I need to just do a boatload of reporting and then let her rip.
How will I know if my writing, my voice, is genuine? I started reading this essay in the New Yorker this morning and I thought shoot, I could do this. I just don’t know if I could do it so it sounds like Ruth wrote it, not some MFA student. It sounds corny, but in a way I need to be in touch with who I am – like I’m listening to Peter Gabriel right now, and it’s making me think of 20 years ago, when I hung out with that crowd I hung out with (amateur musicians, guys I crushed, drinkin’, etc.). So if I can know that part of me that is moved by Peter Gabriel, maybe I can genuinely be the person who writes it. Whoa, that sounds crazy. I think I have the music too loud.
Let’s try this…
There is a whistle-like instrument floating behind the melody. Is it a real instrument? It doesn’t matter because it makes the atmosphere of the song so dreamy.
When I first heard the song, in 1993, I was newly divorced from a mean, mean man. The song was among those that are emblems of my life back then. My pals who had a mostly amateur band and who totally loved Peter Gabriel. “Kiss That Frog” – it was so funny to us.
That was gobbledygook off the top of my head, but the change in tense felt right, not phony. Maybe I need to keep doing this until it feels right. Like musical scales. I can be a writer, a good writer. I just need to practice all the time.
I got the Goucher residency schedule in today’s email. So excited!!!!! I still haven’t decided if I’m flying or driving out there. My husband is opposed to me driving because it’s dangerous, and he has a point. The airfare is just so damn high! And if I had a car I would have more freedom to visit people and try to get to taraweeh when the schedule permits.
Oh, so of course now I know who my “cohort” will be – the other five students who will be Suzannah Lessard’s mentees. Just gauging by Google searches, looks like the experience level varies. One of the people in my group is someone I had contacted about the program. We have communicated by email and it will be nice to meet her.
I just need to keep writing. I believe I will gain confidence if I do.