Do you remember being a young high school student and trying out a new laugh? A tee-hee-hee, a loud guffaw, a chuckle, I tried them all out in search of something I had been doing since probably around four months of age.
It seems to me there is a point when we either try out a new mode of dress, mine took the form of my dad’s old dress shirts, stolen from his chifferobe a wood-worn, black piece of furniture smelling of dry wood and Old Spice, or a signature piece of ourselves, in my case a laugh.
The irony came when I could laugh my new laugh only when I was faking. If I then began to laugh for real, the sound would stop and I would shake, tears running down my face and dripping off of my jawline. My real laugh was silent, my fake laugh was someone else’s. My father, my aunt and myself, all had the same real laugh, messy and wet and silent.
The fake laugh lasted a short time, so I was back to stealing my dad’s old worn button-downs, buttoning them up to the top, and pinning a big, brassy broach in between the collar. Did I layer bracelets? Oh, yes, you know I did. Black rubber bracelets layered in with every costume jewelry bracelet I could find lying around.
Those stuck. They were much more me (and Molly Ringwald, but those of you going to school back then probably guessed how much I loved Pretty in Pink. That was until Some Kind of Wonderful came along and my worship of Mary Stuart Masterson, the gloves, the short, short blonde hair).
The music changed from Madonna and Bruce Springsteen to Depeche Mode, The Cure and The Violent Femmes. The latter stuck with me to this day, and I still have a fondness for my female rockers/angst-ridden guitar ladies: Sheryl Crow, Melissa Etheridge, Alannis Morrisette, Natalie Merchant.
With editing in full swing, I have noticed that I’m reliving my youth. I wrote a book, yes. But as I’m typing it and having the first go at editing I’m waffling. One day as I’m reading, there is too much description so out it goes. The next day, it is too spare, description gets added. I wish I could say it’s because I have a clear vision of where this book going and how it should be sculpted, but I know me, and I know that isn’t the case.
I’m doubting who I am and what I have to say. I’m reading too many agent interviews about silly things like if they aren’t grabbed by the first chapter, no the first paragraph, no the first sentence, screw it! you have one word to grab their attention or you’re done. I find myself being that high school student trying to find myself, dying my hair purple and deciding that black liner and red lips is where I’ll find me.
If there was any doubt, I write big. I write long. I have families and generations and one is more messed up than the last. When I clean it up to spare, it becomes something else, something less interesting, something less me. When I add description just to add it, it becomes unwieldy and foreign, with paragraphs that are too much for the scene they are trying to hold.
Then there is the matter of voice, VOICE, perhaps you’ve heard of it? The matter of whether someone can gather your VOICE in one word. As my friend’s grandmother would have said, Oy vey.
It’s too much. I still wear bracelets although they get piled on because I hate having to choose between them. I still listen to The Cure and Depeche Mode, but it’s more a surprise when the IPod is on shuffle and they pop up like an e-mail from an old, dear friend.
I’ve begun typing what I have written, cutting out major sections that have no reason to be there, and I clean up the language for aural offense (is it still aural if it is the way the words sound inside of your head?) but otherwise, I’m not chopping and I’m not adding.
As a writer I haven’t found myself. I’m somewhere in the tenth grade of my writing life. The best I can do is just soldier on. It’ll come and maybe I’ll be better off for shutting out all of the conflicting advice.
If not, it can’t be worse than the purple hair.