Beginning to find my voice: Reflections on publishing a piece of essay/memoir writing

We should only believe in our feelings, after the soul has been at rest from them; and express ourselves, not as we feel, but as we remember.
– Joseph Joubert, Pensées

Late last month I wrote about voice, about how I have recently been focusing more attention on voice; not only in literature, but as it pertains to meaning, sounds, and silences. I was, at that time, anticipating the publication of my first piece of non-review writing–not the first that I have written, there is a related piece, a parable, that will appear later this year–but rather the first to be published.

I was extremely anxious in advance of the release. I knew that I would be laying forth an aspect of my experience of being in the world that few people were aware of. I am not talking about my queer identity, that is something I have spoken of from time to time although it rarely impacts the books I chose to read and write about. I am referring to the fact that this short essay addresses my complicated relationship with my body in very bold terms.

It can be found here.

Now that the piece is out there, granting me the necessary distance, I am extremely pleased with the results. It is raw and honest, but I feel comfortable that I have touched the heart of my experiences while maintaining a healthy and comfortable boundary. I am not a fan of confessional memoir/autobiographical fiction that tends to the revelation of excessive, unguarded intimate information. It is a delicate balance to measure vulnerability and self respect when writing about the personal details of one’s life. And, I would argue, it is essential to remember that there are limits to what we can ever really know about ourselves and if we remember that we can more honestly write from the heart.

Solitary daisyI have found that I am most comfortable leaning toward a more spare prose the closer I come to the self in my writing. I am hoping that it is a style, a voice if you like, that I can build on. But a detailed account of my life is not my goal in writing–my interest is more philosophical in nature.

I have to say that I am overwhelmed by the positive response to this piece. It is far beyond anything I could have hoped for. And I feel very excited about where I can go from here with further explorations. So much of my reading and the conversations that I’m having in the virtual sphere seem to be converging at this moment. Or perhaps I am simply in a fertile state of mind. It is not, however, an overnight phenomenon, these ideas have been growing for a long time, knocking around in awkward, unfinished form. I am grateful to everyone who has offered inspiration, support and encouragement to this point. I trust they know who they are.

May the conversations continue.

Author: roughghosts

Literary blog of Joseph Schreiber. Writer. Reader. Editor. Photographer.

13 thoughts on “Beginning to find my voice: Reflections on publishing a piece of essay/memoir writing”

  1. Some “understated” voices mask a roar. Which is one way, but not the only way, to be understated. I found so much to admire in the voice you used, but I think I liked most what I heard beneath it – so quiet, so refusing to roar – the voice of the hidden fugitive you heard from the beginning, He remains fugitive – you have become who you are, have developed the voice you use, but the hidden fugitive still speaks. The doubled voice, clarifying, clarifying, but retaining the “fugitive.” How to handle a fugitive – “retain’ or release? Is there some other way? At any rate. I did find your personal piece very well done, as elusive (fugitive) of convention as your splendid criticism. I’ve learned much about reading from you.

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    1. Wow, thank you for your very thoughtful feedback. “Fugitive” – what a wonderful word, I would not have seen that but that is a very insightful observation. I suspect I will have to add that to my vocabulary. I want to explore the words we use to define ourselves, how I could know something I felt so strongly but lacked the vocabulary to describe for so long. I suspect we sometimes fumble for language, especially when our experiences seem at odds with the world we find ourselves in (for any number of reasons), but when we encounter words that seem to fit, they catch us up and we embrace them, either for a time or permanently. Thank you again for commenting.

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  2. I’ve been sitting with fingers poised over the keyboard to find words that might do justice to your piece. Alas, it would seem I’m not so good at finding my own voice! I thought the sparse prose was measured and beautiful, yet while it was honest – a voice laid bare, it seemed not to come from a place of fragility, but from the quiet power of self-acceptance. Absolutely stunning. I look forward to reading more of your work. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Sarah. I find the responses to this work very illuminating. Of course I still feel quite fragile in real life (don’t we all) but I am pleased to have been able to reach beneath the surface of the messiness of everyday life. There were a few more apologetic elements in the original but the editors wisely recommended that they be pulled (and at heart I had known those sections needed to go). I decided that I would only write what I know about myself which is necessarily subjective and existential, but it is a means of getting at my truth. In doing so I think it is possible to strike the universal. At least I hope so.

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  3. I think you’ve got the balance right with the honesty you show in your writing – and that’s a difficult balance, so well done! Finding your own voice is I think the hardest part of writing and you’ve certainly succeeded.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Karen. This work has been fermenting for so long but it feels liberating to get it out there. Oddly, although it is deeply personal it now exists as something else as well–a piece of creative writing of which I am proud. It is an interesting experience for me as a writer and a reader.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. It’s a beautiful essay and something to be proud of. I really loved “I am always in the process of coming into being.” I feel this myself not with my gender but just as a person trying to make my way in the world and through my life. So while you piece was specific to you, it also resonated out from there and that is something special. I hope you keep working at your writing. I look forward to seeing where you take it and listening as your voice develops.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Stefanie. By stripping the journey to its spare elements, I hope that the specifics of experience touch universals others can relate to. That is, for me, where the really interesting conversations lie.

      Liked by 1 person

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