I recently had an idea for a fantastic essay about writing. It would prove controversial, but hold merit; it would change the world, or at least help my post hit a high retweet number. (Which to honest, because I’m terminally competitive, would scratch a persistent itch.)
Problem was, I couldn’t nail the voice.
I knew it was partly that the feelings were too fresh. I was angry and hurt. Worse, I was disappointed in myself for feeling angry and hurt. Still, what I wanted to say felt big enough to try to push through, and I wanted to silence an inner critic. You know? The one that says professional writers would suck it up and git ‘er done, so what was my problem?
Aiming for objectivity, I walked, meditated, wrote approximately twenty first drafts in both earnest and comedic tones. I wrote my post in parable, wrote it in limerick, looked for visual metaphors. About the only thing I didn’t try was smoke signals, but since our weather has been crappy and the woodpile soaked, that seemed impractical at best.
At last I struck gold. My post arrived as a gift — swift, authentic, sideways from what I’d intended, nevertheless, done. I sent it to some writing friends, just to confirm I’d finally hit my stride, and the response came back a uniform O.~
“Nope, Jan. Good idea, Jan. Poor execution.”
Thing is, the minute I had it verified – no, when I pitched the idea – I knew the state of my heart. I didn’t want to write an educational op-ed that happened to be provocative. I wanted to make somebody wrong.
So, note to self (and anyone else for whom this post resonates):
- If you struggle to write an opinion piece and know the issue isn’t content, work ethic, or organization, but rather, tone and voice…
- If you must ask your writer buds questions like, “Will this end my career before it’s begun?”…
- If your own hope-index plummets even as you strive to make the world a shiny place where people frolic in clean, rainbow-hued clothing…
then guess what. It needs time. Lots of time.
In fact, I recommend the following:
- Record your experiences to preserve the richness of original detail.
- Bury them in your hard drive, subconscious, and in paper version in your garden.
- Allow the latter to compost and nourish an earthworm, and in turn, a magnificent bald-headed eagle.
- Notice where the regal beast shites, and several seasons thence, pluck the ripest of fruit from the most graceful of trees. When you have walked back to town and booted up your computer, if sweetness lingers upon your tongue, then pronounce your neener berries ripe.
Until then, give thanks for steadying friends, zip your lips, and hasten to Writer Unboxed, where you compose a meta-analysis about near-misses.
Oh! And retweet all super-awesome posts while sharing your wisdom:
What test do you apply to ensure you’re writing for persuasion rather than from pain?