Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Digging in the (Blog) Archives

Since I've been writing this blog for well over five years now, it has become a nice archive of my life, writing and otherwise. And sometimes, when I'm struggling with a particular writing problem, I look back at my archives and discover that I have struggled with it before.

Case in point...

I just finished reading Kate Furnivall's The Jewel of St. Petersburg. It takes place in pre-Revolutionary Russia and is a wonderful, passionate story of pianist Valentina Ivanova and her lover, Jens, and the political turmoil that sweeps them into history. Furnivall is one of my favorite authors because her writing is absolutely gorgeous, and as I read her books, I feel that writer's envy taking shape because, simply put, I want to write like that.

But this begs the question: am I supposed to write like that?

And, of course, when I happened to be digging into my blog archives, I came across this post, and my question was answered:

"I think this goes along the lines of, "To thine own self be true." I have tried writing sweeping, grand, lofty sentences, but they all fall flat. I am not that kind of writer. I have to stay true to my writing self. This does not mean that I can't explore and branch out of my comfort zone and try new things. But if I discover that those methods do not work, I should not force them upon myself simply because I "think" I need to write that way."

Apparently I am one of those people that needs to be constantly reminded of certain things, this being one of them:

To thine own self be true.

13 comments:

  1. Wow, five years! That's amazing. Hope I can say the same in five years :)

    I totally get what you're saying. I was reading last night and there were parts where I put the book down and wondered, why can't I sound like this?

    Then, as I go through my second edits this morning, I thought about that. My manuscript is staring to look quite good *small pat on the back* but definitely not like what I read last night.

    And that's good. We want to be who WE are as authors. That's why readers can read the same types of stories, with the same themes, over and over again, because they are told by different people, with different styles.

    Great post!

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  2. Darn it. Blogger ate my comment.

    I meant to say that I know exactly what you mean. I often read a book and wish I could write in the same style. I try not to think like that as it brings nothing but self-doubt.

    My editor says she loves my voice. I have no idea what my voice is or how I can improve on it, but I'd hate to lose it. As Kelley said, we want to be who WE are as authors.

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  3. I thought of you when I read about this memoir, set in WW II. Here's a link:
    http://www.niemanstoryboard.org/2011/07/26/david-dobbs-my-mothers-lover-the-atavist-interview

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  4. You're absolutely right, Kelley. They need to be OUR stories, otherwsie we are doing a disservice to ourself and to our readers. We need to learn to embrace our true voice!

    Shirley - Ooh, self-doubt. Been there - going through it now as I read through my stuff and think, "But it's not as GOOD as hers!" Must stop that!

    Linda - Will check it out!

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  5. Congrats on a lengthy blogging life! It's great to look back and see how it was, and today's post is a winner. Sometimes I read other writers and think, 'Oh, I'd LOVE to write like that.' But honestly, I've been graced with a task that only I can carry out and you're the same. We write as we do but only we can write these tales in these ways. Our stories emerge in personal, individual language that's fostered by all we've lived, seen, done. It changes as time passes, but ultimately, this is who we are. Embrace it because you're the only Melissa Marsh God made, and that's so fine! :)))

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  6. Writer's envy has an upside--it keeps us striving to improve our own work. The key, as you point out, is to improve in our own way and our own voice. Imitation always falls flat.

    I remember one workshop I took where the instructor seemed most concerned that we write exactly like him. Those of us who didn't were not looked on with favor. :)

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  7. Love this post. This is a subject I circle back to often. Thank you for the reminder to be true!
    My Blog

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  8. I always needs lots of reminders too of past lessons learned and blogging is wonderful for that!

    Once lesson I keep re-learning is not action just for action's sake, but character driven action!

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  9. It's funny Melissa-but I just went through this very same scenario!

    With both my writing, and what I sew, I have to keep telling myself that while there are other people out there who also write and sew-their work may be different from mine-but that does not mean that it is better than mine. (Though that's the conclusion I often jump too.)

    Thanks for this post-it was a very timely reminder:)

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  10. Anna - What a beautiful comment. Thank you so much! Made my day. :-)

    Christine - I agree. Envy does have a place, though it's a careful line to tread. I know that I constantly want to improve myself, especially after reading such great writing!

    Catherine - You're welcome!

    Margo - It's amazing to me how we think we've learned our lesson, then as time goes by, we have to learn it again. ;-)

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  11. Valerie - You're so welcome. I often jump to the same conclusion - that their work is better than mine. But nope - it's just different! And different makes the world go 'round. ;-)

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  12. Each of us is linked to other writers in some way, like-minded, if you will, when it comes to certain aspirations and struggles. But not one of you walks in my shoes (and I don't walk in yours), so my voice and my words have to be uniquely my own. As do yours.
    Good topic, and congrats on your longevity, Melissa. Now, let's get one of your awesome novels published!!

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  13. Perfectly said, LoRee. :-)

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