When I was in college I took a few writing-centered courses. I was in my late teens/early twenties and developing my “voice,” as one does, and learning through practice. I tried to write like someone who knew what they were talking about, but that didn’t really feel very good, so instead I focused on what felt more natural.
I turned in a few pieces as the voice came to fruition. I tweaked it each time, and when I started to figure out what I really loved about it and how I would apply it to the big project in the class I was taking, I got this advice from my professor: “You’re really good at this voice, but I’d like to see you do something else.”
Damn, I thought, I had it planned out. It wasn’t going to be easy, but I’d gotten to know her, and I wanted to use her. And therein, I think, lay the problem: She wasn’t good enough.
A lot of my classmates, women and men, were writing from a more neutral perspective, and let me be clear: when I say neutral, I mean male. There is no such thing as neutral in American culture, there’s just the un-feminine version of a thing that’s not so masculine that women can’t pull it off. There’s no pink-neutral, there’s no skirt-neutral, there is only grey and pants.
So I started to feel bad about that voice. I was one-note, I was too specific (and fuck me, I thought that was what made comedy), I only had one trick. So I abandoned her, and sitting here right now I can still remember the piece I wanted to write as the final for that class, but the piece I actually wrote? Who fucking knows. I eroded the voice I was cultivating so much that it became generic, trying to appeal so much to everyone that in the end it was for and by nobody at all.
Here’s the thing: that voice was by no means perfect. It needed work, and there’s nothing wrong with getting out of your comfort zone, especially when you’re learning, but when you’re on the cusp of learning who you are, I really think you gotta go for that first. Trust your gut, or your heart, or whatever organ appeals to you.
It’s taken me a long time, and I’m not sure I’ll ever get her back, but I’m trying. Here’s to you never losing yours.