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Friday, October 16, 2009

Dueling Voices

In my first Middle Passages post, and in a few since, I wrote of the (former) secret writer in me, the one who emerged from hiding eight months ago, referring to that modest scribe in the third person--a "she" and not a “me” as if we are two separate souls. In Negotiating with the Dead, A Writer on Writing, Margaret Atwood suggests that perhaps I’m not the only one who lives a life divided.

Yesterday, during my stolen hour at the library I shivered when I read:
“There has been widespread suspicion among writers...that there are two of him sharing the same body…When writers have spoken consciously of their own double natures, they’re likely to say that one half does the living, the other half the writing…”

This concept resonated, and I backed out of the library parking lot cognizant for the first time of two competing parts of my brain. One drove down the highway with eyes focused a requisite twenty feet forward, muttering a silent monologue “That SUV is going to pull out in front of you on the right—watch out for the pick-up coming toward you, he’s too close to the middle line—the light up ahead has been green for a bit—it’s going to turn yellow before you get there, ease your foot on the brake.” All the while the other side of my brain remarked: “That comment from Margaret Atwood--how can I turn that into a blog post? Oh, wow. The red tree by the Stop and Shop? I swear last year when the leaves changed it was a bright orange. Look at the rush of leaves skittering across the pavement--the branches as they brush the sky, what would I call that movement, that cloud design--striated?”

When you are a writer, you live with competing voices: one that gets you safely down the street—while remembering that boneless chicken is on sale and that you are out of soap. That one prompts you to shop at the Farmer’s Market because it is the last one of the season, insisting that you purchase a pound of fresh beans even though they are pricey, because they are shiny and crisp and you need something green as a side to the leftovers you plan for supper. All the while, another voice is commenting on the crystal chime of the bells striking the quarter hour from stone church up on the hill, the twang of the guitar from the folksinger taking shelter under the tent, the damp-wash storm smell that pervades the air.

For many years, the dominant voice in my head meant security and food on the table and drowned out the music of another type of nourishment. As of late that tune has emerged, endeavoring to stand up straight, to throw back her shoulders, fill her lungs with air and release a pure note among the clamoring cacophony of crowded brain noise.

It seems that authors like Atwood must let—no, encourage—no, compel this other voice, not only to speak, but to yell, to holler, finally refining it to an aria of unique and brilliant language. In comparison, my writing is a ghost whisper, but it is enough that it exists. I’ve made it to a place where rather than squelching each other, my voices pause politely to listen. “After you,” one says. “Oh no, after you,” insists the other, both striving to remain on their side of the path, heading toward a symbiotic balance.

OK writers out there—put me out of my misery. Am I nuts? How would you describe your voices?


glnroz said...

Actually, I think you may have uncovered an easy to understand way to explain it, but then again I kinda got used to just being a little "nuts" lol

Tabitha Bird said...

My voice... hmmm. Poetic maybe? I like nuts. Nuts are interesting :)

Ginger B. (Barbara) Collins said...

This post really spoke to me. I've allowed that other voice to be in charge for several months, spending the summer season playing around at our place in Canada without writing much more than blog posts and comments in discussion groups. But lately the writer voice has taken over, pointing out situations and characteristics that describe the lead characters in my NANOWRIMO novel. I had originally planned to write about a young woman named Jane, but recently her fraternal twin sister, Nell, has popped up insisting to be involved. It had never occured to me that Jane had a sister, but apparently she does!

So, if you're talking nuts, I probably fit the description.

Ginger B.