Some Musings On The Evolution Of Authorial Voice

It’s 2:23 on Wednesday, and I’m at my favorite coffee shop in Minneapolis, where I wrote the majority of Purge: Rehab Diaries. I’m drinking some Montana Gold tea, which is my new favorite tea, and watching huge, wet snowflakes fall to the sidewalk and melt. My favorite barista is working. It’s a cozy scene, and a perfect day for writing.

I’ve been mulling over some thoughts about writing lately. Mostly I’ve been thinking about authorial voice, and how it can change over time. I recently went on a historical expedition through my old computer files, and hard copies of papers, essays, stories, etc. I wrote while in undergrad and grad school. I had no particular reason to go through these files, other then they were a good distraction and procrastination tool (I should’ve been studying for a midterm). But, what I found made me think, and provided and explanation for some writerly troubles I have been dealing with over the past few years.

How I wrote in undergrad is much different than how I wrote in grad school. This seems like it would be obvious, but it wasn’t obvious to me until I read through my old work. My undergrad voice was excited, over-the-top, a bit ridiculous, but really fun. I took risks and chances with my writing. There were lots of cringe-inducing moments when I reread that old stuff. But there were also some hilarious moments, too. And amongst all of the rough material, there were a few gems. In undergrad, I was 18-21, and it shows. Next I read over my grad school writing, and I noticed that my authorial voice grew more authoritative, and more solid. My diction and descriptions improved. I still took risks, especially with structure and form, but they were calculated risks. My grad school writing had a more mature voice. I was 22-24 in grad school, so it makes sense that as I matured and changed, so would my writing.

Now, I am 30, and I feel that my authorial voice is changing, again. This seems like a natural progression, but it’s still difficult, trying to find and establish my new voice. Just like I wasn’t the same writer in undergrad as I was in grad school, I am now experiencing another evolution. I am not the same as I was when I wrote Purge: Rehab Diaries. My voice has changed again. I remember how shaky and uncertain I felt writing-wise when I transitioned from undergrad to grad school. I was cognizant of the fact that my authorial voice was changing. It was a hard, distressing time, but ultimately, I came through the confusion more sure of myself as a writer. It was a good change.

I need to take calculated risks again. When I read my writing from undergrad, it makes me smile (and sometimes cringe) because I didn’t care about publication, agent deadlines, or anything like that. I was free to experiment, and although I didn’t realize it at the time, I was completely artistically unencumbered. I had loads of encouragement from the PSU-Erie English folks, both students and faculty. Anything went. I miss that freedom, even though in a way, I still have it. I just need to turn off my internal censor, and forget about the outside world for awhile.

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