EPC — The Athleticism of Voice

Sometimes when you are creating, you just need to put a lot of muscle into it. Here is an excerpt from my book Women Voice and Writing.

We have a myth that the Muse visits, like the tooth fairy, giving inspiration. This can of course  happen,  but  in its own  unique,  un-forcible timing. Until then, and to woo the Muse, we need to sweat.

Rachel Vail touched on this myth first in my interviews, when she talked about the athleticism of writing:

Rachel:        What really turned the corner for me, in being able to write, was this playwriting professor, who said, “Of course your first 20 ideas are going to be ridiculous—you’ve heard them already! . . . Vomit those out, get past those first 20 or 40 or 50 things, just cross those out. Delete them, throw them in the garbage … it’s going to be the 51st, that might be the beginning of something worth working on.”

That gave me the permission to be trite…. so that first sentence doesn’t have to be brilliant, because of course it’s not going to be.  You just need to get it out. And writing became less exalted. And more athletic….

You are getting there, and you stretch and you try, and you keep trying, and you get sweaty and dirty, and you just keep going. It is not going to come out poetry, literally, on your first effort…. You just keep going and going.

It gave me permission not to have to be Mozart.  I figured out that I had to keep making stuff up until  it becomes true. It wasn’t going to be true the first time  I sat down.

Carolivia Herron works out in silence:

Carolivia:    Everything I publish is read aloud many, many, many times. So many times, it is embarrassing to say. I start at the beginning of a paragraph, and I read one sentence, and I wait. I look up and I wait to see what word comes next in my head.  And if the word that comes next in my head is not the one that I have written, then I work it over again, until the silence fills automatically with the next word. And then I do that and then I read two sentences—

I will do that over and over again until I get one paragraph. And then I do the next paragraph, and then I read two paragraphs, and then on and on like that, in any one paragraph.

And I walk. I like to have places where I can walk around in a circle. The beach is good for it. And it takes hours and hours.  That’s the kind of silence and the actual process of writing.

Caroline Bird adds another facet when she discusses the myth that cre- ative work somehow exists somewhere already: like Michelangelo, we just need to find it in the marble and let it express itself. For her, the truth is that she is creating something new that was not there before—a bit sweatier task than “allowing.”

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