Developing a voice amid the chatter

Today, I thought a lot about voice, how I use mine, and what I want to say, in relation to what everyone else uses theirs to say, and how they go about doing so. (I will not equate voice to style here — that would have to be an entirely separate post, but likely won’t be.)

Does anyone else feel like the internet has turned writing into something much different and kind of worse than what it used to be? I feel that way a lot of the time. I enjoy reading novels about writers in different times, and thinking about both the author and his writer character and how the two are reflections of each other (see: Tropic of Cancer). When I think about those stories, I am left to think that it is too easy to be a writer today. The internet creates a low barrier for entry when it comes to the written word, and it seems like most people think literacy is equivalent to knowing how to use language.

I think of all the writers I admire, and how they clearly thought about their words, instead of just their stories. But much of what I read online focuses too often on the story, rather than the craftsmanship and effort required to make words dance on a page. I am not claiming I make words dance on pages, but I am acknowledging that it is possible, and that it is what I strive to one day be able to achieve. I do feel like this problem is more prominent in fiction and poetry, but I am going to stay general in this post, in fear of spiraling into too many specifics and having my point lost (to myself as much as to others).

I feel like much of what I read on the internet is a complete abuse of the English language. I do not feel that I read much quality writing online, and I think many people who want to write do not respect the language in which they are writing — ESPECIALLY if it is their first language.

I have been moved by pieces of writing. I take notes on things I read that are precise in describing something larger than the compilation of their words. None of these passages were in self-published books or blogs. Feeling this way, I hate that I have a blog — I insist it is a mere sketchpad — but I really don’t know how else to try engage with the writing community as someone who is aiming to learn and improve.

I seldom admire the work of others outside of what I see officially published, and I seldom feel I receive useful criticism of my work. This is not always the case (I have had people say very insightful and helpful things about my writing, and I appreciate it —more than I can accurately express—every single time.) But I don’t know—  I want so badly to improve that it hurts when it seems like other writers don’t take language as seriously. I also want so badly to be eclipsed by the writing of others who are within my reach. I want to respect my peers and to learn from them. I want to feel like someone else out there cares about word choice and punctuation in a way that keeps them up at night. I don’t think this is too much to ask from those who call themselves writers.

I would like to wrap up this essay, by saying that I do not think I am much of an essayist — I think I am more of a poet and fiction writer, if I can allow myself (just this once) to be bold enough to state that. I put a lot of thought into things I write, and the words I choose, and how those words can be misinterpreted by a reader. I like looking up words before I use them, to see if I am using all three of one word’s definitions in a way that has a nice, overall meaning, regardless of which definition the reader (if there is one) is thinking about when they read what I wrote. I do not know if I do this enough, or if I am at all successful at it, but this is what I strive to do.

I don’t know how often people think deeply about what they read, and I don’t think anyone has much of a reason to think deeply about what I am saying — mine is just one small voice in a sea of muffled voices — but I try to use my voice thoughtfully, and consider what I am trying to say, and have it always mean something important to me, while respecting the English language as the medium through which this all happens.

So I will not apologize to anyone at the end of this because this is not my first language. This is my language, and I hope my voice can do it justice.

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