No, I’m sorry, I can’t do this. I can’t think of anything to say.
She sits down in a fog of embarrassment and dismay and silence.
Or the inverse.
Yeah well like my name is like Kimkourtneykhloe and I’m like 14 well almost like I will be next month and I’m sick excited because me mum, mum said that she’ll take me to like Devonport for the day and I’ve never been there before and I hear it’s a exciting place and I just can’t wait because I might get to buy like a new like clothes yeah. What else? Yeah well like I live with mum and six brothers and four sisters and seven dogs and five chickens and yesterday I got a new like kitten she’s called Kendallkylie because mum reckons that name’s really like cool and she said that if she had another kid it would be called that but we told her that she can’t have another kid because like me dad’s not here he’s having a stretch mum calls it and it only seems to happen when he’s around – or Uncle Max – but he’s in prison too, so that won’t happen which is good because there’s not enough room in the bed for us all anymore so yeah that’s it.
Three seconds start to finish.
People hear our voice when we have something to say. Or when we think we have something to say. For some of us, if we have nothing to say we say nothing. Our voice won’t be heard. I think mothers are responsible. If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything. I don’t know if you’re like me in this regard, but over the years I’ve tended to substitute many words for ‘nice’: Intelligent. Funny. Inspirational. Witty. Imaginative. Clever. Interesting. Astute. Insightful.
I’m silent a lot!
I was unhappy with yesterday’s post.
I asked Tim what he thought. (I ask him that every day and he says the same thing: Yeah, it’s good with the rising inflection that gives me a little bit of encouragement but not too much.) Yesterday he said, I liked the picture of the kids jumping off the bridge.
I like an honest man, I honestly do, but yesterday I secretly wished he’d listened to my mother. A. Thousand. More. Times!!
I was unhappy with yesterday’s post because I felt that I had nothing to say. I had nothing intelligent, funny, inspirational, witty, imaginative, clever, interesting, astute, insightful to say ….
I had no point to make, no advice to give, no wisdom to share. My words came haltingly, it took three times as long to write as my posts generally do, and in the end I clicked the ‘publish’ button quite reluctantly. I felt like a student who knows the deadline is NOW but needs one more day to figure out their argument, to push the fog away so that their point becomes clear. And then a strange thing happens. It’s not one more day you need, because within an hour of the submit/publish button being clicked, it all becomes clear in your head.
It’s too late. It’s submitted and you know your reader/marker will be saying to him/herself I can see what you’re trying to say, but it would be better if you just said it.
Finding your voice is hard if you have nothing to say: if you don’t understand the topic, if you don’t have a view on it, if you are unclear about the point you want to argue, if you don’t have an angle. Writing a blog post, or writing an assignment will feel like torture, each sentence wrung out a word at a time. Ideas will scurry to the darkest corners of your mind and hide under boxes labelled one hit wonders of the 80s, or tram stops from South Yarra to the city, or high school teachers I’d like to see today so that I can say see, I did make something of myself.
We tell students to plan their assignments. I tell students to plan their assignments. But I can’t write like that. I can’t plan. I do however, need an angle. My voice will be weak, will desert me, if I don’t have a hook: that first idea, the approach I’m going to take. My first sentence is the most important one for me. It shapes my whole post; when I was an undergraduate the first sentence shaped each assignment. Until I had my first sentence I couldn’t write.
My first sentence sets the scene, gives me ideas that grow as I write. Once I have the first sentence (the initial idea, the angle, the perspective) then I can write. From then I write by writing not by planning. I understand through writing – I write to understand.
When I know I have something to say – something intelligent, funny, inspirational, witty, imaginative, clever, interesting, astute, insightful – then my voice will emerge.
How does it work for you?
Tomorrow is day seven of the writing challenge. The final day. Free choice says Tim. Yikes! That’s a challenge.
But I’m up for a challenge.
Do you have one for me?