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Recognising the sound of your own voice
The other day a friend sent me this amusing little meme. Which one am I? I thought probably Bruce.
Yet when I asked a trusted source, I was informed I am actually Loud Roger. On reflection, probably accurate. I do talk a lot. And have decision paralysis. (I joke sometimes that if you’re dining with me at a restaurant, there will come a point you need to just take the menu away from me and tell me what I’m having.)
But how we think we are and how we come across to others can be very different. More importantly, I don’t think I can change the fact that I am probably the noisy cat in this meme.
In much the same way, I’m not sure I could change the way I write. I think about this sometimes, in the context of discussions about influences and while there are writers whose work I love, I don’t try to emulate their style: because I couldn’t.
A writing style or voice seems to be something innate. I certainly never made any conscious attempts to shape it. Over the years, I've had critical comments to academic articles that my pieces were “too journalistic”. (That's a pejorative in the academic world). I’ve also been called “antiquarian” (whatever that’s supposed to mean). I recognize that I never got into the habit of spilling the dictionary across the page, spraying the scent of I went to graduate school!!! with adjectives of dialectical this and Althusserian that.
Perhaps I should have. I recognize it's a skill, but to me changing one's voice on the page feels as much like changing the timbre of my voice box, which in most people is fixed by their teens. A concerted effort could be made, but like Elizabeth Holmes, with her dropped octave vocal fry, I would struggle to stick with it for long. (Believe me, I wish I sounded throaty and sexy like Ellen Barkin or Lauren Bacall. I do not. I sound more like Lisa Simpson).
As it is with writing. I have tried, indeed in academic formats had to try, to write differently. This means I acquired an unfortunate hedging tic, which creeps up on me despite myself. In academic writing, so many pages are spent in a defensive crouch against anticipated critiques. The attacks will be that one hasn’t sufficiently addressed some counter-claim, or even just demonstrated familiarity with tangentially-related topics. This means lots of throat clearing, on-the-other-handing, and paragraphs peppered with “of course,” “however,” and “nonetheless.” Unfortunately compulsory in academia; tedious everywhere else. But it stuck to my writing like barnacles of ambivalence. Now when I finish a piece I have to do control-F for “however” and delete that sucker wherever I can, getting back to my own voice.
What else I’ve been up to: