EPC — Art vs. Craft

There  is some lively discussion within  these interviews  about if and how you can learn writing from a teacher. Caroline Bird expresses skepticism, then off the tape revised her position, saying, “I think you can teach the craft of writing. The art of writing has to come from within, that cannot be taught.” Talent without discipline is not fruitful, but discipline without talent lacks effective voice.

EPC — Allowing for Change

Rachel Vail’s “Permission not to have to be Mozart” really resounds for me. I have wrestled with the myth that, to write and let you read it, my thinking  has to be fully mature, complete, finished—and that five years from now, I’d agree 100% with what I wrote. There is something daunting about the permanence  of the written word. A phone call fades, even e-mail is more likely to be deleted than not. But a written  note can be taken out and read over and over again, over time. And it continues to speak from the person who wrote it—who I might not be in five years.

EPC — Integrating Voices

We are sometimes pressured  to be homogeneous, to be all one mode: all nice, or all pro or con an issue, clear and uncomplex. Yet when I find a personal truth, very often it is a paradox, combining both polarities. Truth inside out. We can love fiercely, and disagree vehemently. So we can write clearly and ambivalently, in focus and confusion, clearly committed and questioning. We can choose to be broad, with texture  and dimensions, messy and stainless-steel polished.

Speaking  and writing  with  your own voice does not mean  silencing parts, but integrating  them. Like the Tibetan monks, who chant with two tones, we do not have to speak in just one voice.

EPC — Assessing Achievements

A study tested the difference between men and women’s perceptions of their own achievements. Each gender group took a test and then received their results. The results were rigged, as was the ease of the test: one set of tests was very difficult, and scores were reported  low, regardless of performance. The second set of tests was extremely easy and results were falsely reported high.

Then the men and women were asked, “To what do you attribute your performance?” The results were astounding.

EPC — Un-premeditated Voice

It was a warm August evening in New York, about 11 p.m. We had all just come from seeing Marcel Marceau’s “Last Concert in America” (the first one of several; he changed his mind a few times) and were digest- ing this visual feast of silent communication, so the crowd was talking softly and going slowly. Except for one man.

This fella had his arm around a glitzy woman. They both were walk ing with a swagger, and his sarcasm knifed into my awareness: “I’m going to get on the train now, and go home to Connecticut. The little woman will have the kids in bed, and she’s going to say, ‘Oh, Honey, how hard you work, staying in the office this late, what can I get you?’” I spun away from my husband  and in-laws and right into his face, 

EPC — Choosing Voice

Choosing voice is about  application: When  do we speak and when do we keep silent? What do we choose to give voice to and what do we choose to ignore, or remain  silent with? Using our voice is taking  a stand, defining ourselves.

In any given situation there are three basic choices: exit, loyalty, or voice. We can leave, disassociate, or remove ourselves; we can remain loyal to the  situation,  supporting  or with  silent  consent;  or we can choose to give voice—and thereby express our unique perspective.

EPC — Voice as Defense

Voice is our protector.   Here is an excerpt from my book Women Voice and Writing, to help you think about this…

In a self-defense class, our instructor Peg taught that the voice is always the first line of defense. “Speak up. If you are being attacked, yell. It helps retard shock and shallow breathing. If you yell, your lungs fill up and you are more grounded  and present than if you move into a flight response.”  Peg instructs  our class of 18 women to stomp our feet and yell “No!” then scream “911” all together.

We do this, loudly. A good deal of sound comes out. Then we laugh, a bit uncomfortable from our uncharacteristic shout. But one young woman is in tears. Peg, our instructor, asks her, “What’s going on?” The twenty-something  woman says, “I’ve never yelled ‘NO!’ before, and it scared me. And it felt so good.”

EPC — Creative wounds, or, the value of hard times

Another excerpt from  my book Women Voice and Writing.

Megan LeBoutillier used the term “creative wound.”  There is an archtype of the wounded  healer. The theory is that one needs to go through a healing crisis oneself, facing death or near death, before  one  can  come  into  the  fullness  of  her  healing  power.  Only though the alchemy of this kind of transformation, then, can one understand and minister to others in healing.

Wounding may not be necessary to attain depth of voice. But if one has been through  a crisis—creative or personal, that crisis can be used in service of strengthening voice. And clarifying voice.

EPC — A Matter of Time

There is a myth that one needs to make huge caverns of quiet time to write. The reality is that  most writers  begin in the margins  of their unquiet  life, and  move to full-time writing  as occupation  only after many years. Writing in the margins becomes especially complicated for women with  work, relationship, and  children.  The myth  of needing  time to write full-time may be confused with the need for some combination of solitude,  silence, and  stillness  in order  to write.

Here is an excerpt from my book Women Voice and Writing, to help you think about this…