The Writer's Mailbag: Installment 280
So many changes happening right now in my life, some bittersweet, some lovely, some challenging and some a proverbial piece of cake; they are all part of this thing we call life, and I welcome them all with open arms and heart.
It’s a bit of a metamorphous for me. I do not normally embrace change. I’m a creature of habit. I find comfort in routine and normalcy, so these changes have been a challenge for me; still, I see them as a means for growth, and growth can never be bad . . . no matter how much I sometimes fight it.
One thing which has remained constant, though, is the Mailbag. It’s odd, really, because I never intended for the Mailbag to be a series. It was supposed to be a “one and done” article. Shows you how little I really know, and I’m grateful that I was wrong about it. The Mailbag has turned into a marvelous way to connect with other very talented writers and high-quality human beings.
Just too cool for words!
From Tina: “How does a writer find her voice, or style? I struggle with it. I don’t even know if I have it. Any suggestions would be appreciated.”
It’s an interesting question, Tina. I think our voice, or our writing style, develops over time. If you write enough, your particular style of writing will evolve without much prodding by you. Having said that, I also think a writer can alter style a bit depending on the genre. I write thrillers primarily, and my voice in those novels is considerably different from my voice when I wrote “Resurrecting Tobias,” or when I wrote “The 12/59 Shuttle.” Similarly, my voice when writing the Mailbag is a bit different from my voice when writing “Travels With Maggie,” or some of my social commentary stuff.
Suggestions? Don’t think about it for now. Write the way you are comfortable, and write about things you have a passion for. If you have passion it will show in your writing, and if it shows in your writing it will become your voice.
From David: “Hey Bill! I know you’ve been working on your memoirs for a few months now. How about sharing an excerpt from it for those of us who care?”
I can do that, David. Thanks for the request. Here ya go:
I became a different person after my dad died. It’s obvious to me now. In fact, I can say without hesitation that I turned out differently because of his death. I am not the man today I would have been if Dad had not dropped dead on that cold January night. This is, in part, a revelation for me as I sit here writing. On January 8, 1969, I was one person, and on January 9, 1969, I was a completely different person, a magical transformation, first you see him, then you don’t, and there are times the blind truly cannot see. I had no idea at that time. For sure I was sad, but I could not begin to fathom the enormity of what was happening inside of me as January pushed into February and beyond that year.
Most of my adult life, my default setting has been melancholy. I had to work at being happy. I know for some that sounds ridiculous, but it is what it is for me. Prior to my dad’s death I was a pretty happy kid, then teen. After his death, I settled into the cold embrace of dolefulness, wearing it like a cloak to protect me from the pain of joy. I don’t believe I am clinically depressed. I don’t exhibit any of those symptoms. I’ve never been suicidal, but I do have an intimate relationship with the dark side of life.
I had to work at being happy after 1969. It’s such a strange thing to write, but it’s accurate. Laughter did not flow freely. A lightness of heart was oftentimes manufactured to fit the scene so as to not appear strange to others. I knew how I was expected to act in certain situations and so I acted that way to appease the masses, but internally I was convinced the sun would never again shine on my heart.
Knowing what I know now about my biological family, I suspect I was pre-programmed for sadness right out of the womb, but it took my father’s death to unlock the Gates of Gloom and allow those poisonous waters to wash over me.
I can see it all now with a much more objective eye. I was angry then. I was angry at my dad for dying and for not taking better care of himself. I was angry at my mom for checking out and leaving it all up to me, and angry at my sister for doing the same. I was pissed at God and hell, I was just pissed at the universe for dropping me into a situation which just wasn’t fair. But more than being angry . . . I was afraid. I was afraid of failing everyone who was counting on me, and I was afraid everyone would come to the realization that I was not strong enough for the job. Fake it till you make it is all well and good when deceiving people who don’t know better, but it isn’t worth a damn when trying to deceive yourself.
The walls immediately went up and, for the most part, did not come down until 2006. I took special care in constructing an emotional wall to protect myself from loss. Specific words were not spoken, outlining the intent, but the intention was crystal clear: I would never again allow myself to care so much for someone that their passing would hurt me. I would keep everyone at a distance, a no-fire zone, an invisible cocoon if you will, protecting me from future pain. Friends were fine to have, as long as they were casual friends. Dating was fine to partake in, as long as the heart was not fully invested in the process. Hell, even marriage was an acceptable undertaking because, well, it was expected, but it was important to keep some of me in reserve, a safeguard for when the expected happened and the vows were torn asunder.
A different person today . . . what would I have become if Dad had not died that night? What path would I have taken? How much different would my reality today be if not for that event? How much future pain could have been avoided?
It’s all an intellectual exercise I choose not to take part in. What happened, happened! My response, for better or for worse, is the response I orchestrated. I personally mixed the mortar. I personally added the rebar for extra strength. I dug the moat and filled it with all manner of man-eating amphibian creatures, and I personally tossed away the only key which could open the only door to my sanctuary.
I blame no one!
From Lydia: “Should I sign up for a creative writing class? I feel like there is something missing from my writing.”
I don’t know, Lydia, should you?
If you can afford to take one then take it. For the life of me I don’t see any negatives by doing so. My only suggestion is this: if you can afford to take a class, then take one from the best instructor you can find. Due diligence . . . ask around for references. Check out qualifications. Don’t settle for second-best. Heck, I’ll be happy to be your mentor . . . for a price! Lol
A short one today, but that’s okay. The streak continues, we all had a chance to visit for awhile, so it’s all good. If you have a question, include it in the comment section below, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll include it in the next Mailbag.
Until next Monday, my friends, I’ll be busy rocking my world and taking on those changes I mentioned earlier. I wish you all a brilliant week of accomplishments and love.
2019 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”