finding your voice

15 February, 2010

I’ve been pretty much mute for the last week; for the first time since November I ‘broke the chain’ and went quite a few days without writing anything. It was partly an emotional response to a rather epic crash and partly simply feeling utterly uninspired by anything I was trying to write. I seem to be coming out of it now – well, I don’t have much choice, given that I have to submit work on Friday – and things seem both a little less fraught and a lot more alive. I’ve given up on the sestina for now; I did find something I wanted to hang on it but I just don’t think I’m up to the task at the moment. Instead I’m returning to some ideas that have been mulling in my mind for a good while, so hopefully I can shake something out of my sleeve by the end of the week. Wish me luck; it’s going to be tight.

In search of inspiration and a sideways look at the whole thing (and also because it’s on the reading list for this week’s fiction class) I picked up a copy of Al Alvarez‘s The Writer’s Voice. I haven’t got massively far yet but am enjoying it; for Alvarez finding your voice is what enables you to say what you want to say. I was especially intrigued by his opening quote from Keats, which I hadn’t come across before:

The Genius of Poetry must work out its own salvation in a [wo]man: it cannot be matured by law and precept, but by sensation and watchfulness in itself.

I suppose it’s the nod to St Paul and his letter to the Philippians that caught my eye; given that my writing is all tangled up with my spirituality the analogy appeals. And it rings true; yes, you can be taught craft, but cultivating your writing is something you have to do by yourself. I like the holding in balance of a certain amount of effort with the acknowledgement that it can’t be pinned down too rigidly; instead it involves ‘sensation and watchfulness’, which seems exactly right to me. So I’m trying to step back a bit, and watch and listen for what it is I need to be writing about this week.

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5 Responses to “finding your voice”

  1. AJD said

    Wise words Venn!

  2. KB said

    Sounds like a tough week. As requested, here’s wishing you luck…

    I remember being told that Edward de Bono defined luck as ‘where preparedness meets opportunity.’ He wasn’t a poet, but it seems to resonate with Keats’ ‘sensation and watchfulness’ a little. There’s groundwork you don’t even know you’ve done til the ground is broken. And imagery you don’t even know you’ve seen til it comes back to you in ink.

    So actually, like you say, screw the luck – I’ll wish you watchfulness, opportunity, and a proper sense that you’re prepared for this, whatever the this is that’ll come to you as you listen.

  3. […] two weeks since I last posted (not including yesterday) – bad girl. The day after I wrote about finding a voice, feeling tentatively optimistic about things becoming a bit easier, I had 1: some potentially […]

  4. […] last week was my most recent turn to be workshopped. Things were feeling quite tough by then and I was slogging away at a few things that had been rattling round my brain for a while. […]

  5. […] reading Al Alvarez’s brilliant book on finding your voice (which I originally mentioned here). Highly recommended. The third chapter is a bit of a departure from the first two, but I’d […]

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