“Voice” in writing is one of those things that’s easy to define but hard to describe. It’s an amalgamation of vocabulary, style, tone, cadence, and rhythm. In other words, all the things used to describe someone’s speaking voice but translated to the page in a way that it comes across through silent letters. Read enough of one person’s work and you’ll start to detect their voice in new works, even if they change the subject matter, style, or context.
Since I’ve started writing books, I’ve had several people tell me they hear my voice in every word. They may not know me in person, or not heard my voice in ages if they do. It’s always the same though- “I really love your voice. Reading your book feels like I’m listening to you talk straight to me.”
That means a lot to me because it means that I’ve created something that accurately represents me and who I am. It means I’ll have left a bit of myself behind when I die.
When you come from New Jersey, you know exactly what it means to go to diner. Not just the food or the atmosphere to expect, but what it means– especially a 24-Hour Diner.
This morning, I was walking around Southeast Portland and found myself craving diner food. More than that, I was craving the diner vibe that I thought I’d left behind on the East Coast. Food doesn’t have to be the best or fanciest or prettiest plate in existence for it to be the best food for that moment.
When someone cooks for you, the food can tell you where they came from, what’s important to them, what influenced them, and what they dream of being and doing. On one plate, everything from the ingredients to the cooking methods to the service style can give you a veritable masterclass in the entire culture the dish came from.
Then there’s people like me who try to write about all of that and what’s more, make a buck off of it. It takes no small amount of hubris to assume you can summarize a multimedia, multi-sensory experience to words on a page. Sometimes the only thing that encourages me in trying to do so is that 1. Someone has to, and 2. People have.
If anyone was to ask me what I’ve noticed about my professional life in the last year, I would says “I’m working harder than I ever have in my life, but I’m minding it less.” There’s something to be said for getting yourself into a job that provides more eustress (the good kind of stress that comes from challenging yourself or doing something exciting) and distress (which is… well, distressing.)
Stress is still stress, though, and one of my issues is finding ways to “turn it off” and letting myself relax without the feeling of “Yes, I’m relaxing, but surely I could be relaxing more productively…” Sitting down with my therapist, he suggested a good mix of self-love and self-care. “Give yourself permission to not be firing on all cylinders,” “make time for rest,” etcetera. All good advice I need to keep in mind more often. Critical for today, though, was his last suggestion- “What activities inspire and restore you?”
Well… that’s what writing used to be. Baking too. Both still work now and again, but the cathartic aspect just doesn’t hit like it used to. THIS is what restores me now.
Good evening, all! Thank you for your patience during my… extended blog silence. Between finishing up the holiday season at the pie shop, shutting down the bakery for a week of vacation, and then all the madness/travel/actual rest involved in said vacation, I found that I needed to take writing off my plate too. You’d think I’d be excited to be stuck in a plane for 3 hours at a stretch with nothing to do BUT write, but an audiobook and the need for sleep had other ideas.
The good news is that I’m rested, refreshed, and slowly getting back into the good habits that I let fall by the wayside in the last few months.
Like most people, though, time with family is not always renewing and refreshing despite love and all the best intentions. My parents can be neurotic and benevolently overbearing sometimes (characteristics which, nebach, my wife says I come by honestly.) They are getting older and learning to deal not just with our world as it is- challenging enough for any age group- but coming to grips with the world as it was. That includes recognizing the good and the bad that we carry forward with us, however unwittingly.