A LinkedIn message, from a guy I used to box with from 2015-2017:
Hi Vanilla! Can I just take a few words to say how glad I am that “Discovering Ratchet” is live again? I’m proud of you for finding your voice anew! All the best xo
I wish I could say I’ve found my voice anew. I haven’t.
Roger Rosenblatt, author of Unless it Moves the Human Heart – the Craft and Art of Writing, shares a debate with his students concern the meaning of ‘voice’:
“What’s all this talk of ‘voice’?” asks Suzanne.
“You mean, ‘all this crap,’ don’t you?”
“If you insist. Yes. Crap. That’s all anyone talks about when they talk about writing. Voice. If, at my age, I don’t know my own voice, I’ll never know it.”
I tell her she’s right, that “voice” is merely the latest cliché to signify good writing. Its predecessor was “authority.” She is also right about linking self-knowledge to writing. “But instead of thinking of self-knowledge as idiosyncratic, try connecting it more to the task at hand. Subject matter determines voice. Voice should be selfless. Want to tell a tale in the voice of an idiot savant? Try The Sound and the Fury. Want to create an innocent learning morality? Put your glasses on Huckleberry Finn’s nose, but make sure the reader sees more of Huck’s nose than your glasses. Voice is the knowledge of what you want to say. After that, it becomes any voice that serves your purpose.”
When I started this blog in 2014, I thought it a practical way to share the funny anecdotes in my life in a time-effective manner. Rather than recount them one by one to all my friends at get-togethers or via Whatsapp groups, I could just publish them here, and direct those who had free time to follow my jokey-life online. After a brief detour into my online dating trials and tribulations, it become something more – an anthology of self-discovery, through dating misadventures certainly, but also through the complicated world of mental health struggles.
“I find I don’t know what I mean to say till I start to write,” says Robert.
“You find that you don’t know what you think until you write it, too. You’ll be going along writing sentence after sentence about some slight received by a character, then you find yourself growing angrier on his behalf. Before you realize it, you’re in a rage, and the rage is what you felt from the start, though you had no sign of it until the words unearthed it. If we have to put it in terms of ‘voice,’ voice may be the imprisoned you, waiting to be paroled.”
I stopped writing in 2019 because it became a burden. Writing about my borderline diagnosis was invaluable in helping understand the particular way this destructive disorder manifested itself in my life, however, the more I explained, the more I felt like damaged goods. Moreover, I was in the midst of a very messy dating situation: it is nearly impossible to make sense of an abusive relationship in real time. I was tired of worrying that in sharing my truth, I would jeopardize my perceived professionalism at work. Was my blog was merely an exercise in navel-gazing, proof of the immaturity I was often accused of by coworkers, family and occasionally friends?
“We write what we are,” says Nina.
“I think so. What we are, what we fear, what we love, what we believe, what we want the world to be.”
“Do you believe that?” Sven asks me. “That we write to change the world?”
“I do. If we look like we’re trying to change the world, the writing will sink from the weight of its own piety. But in the best of our work, the idealism is there, like trout below the surface of the water. Of course you want to try to change the world. You just don’t want to show your cards. But look at the world. Who would not want to change it? Books count. They disturb people. You never heard of a tyrant who wanted to burn the TV sets.”
After 3 years of convincing myself my blog did not matter, I am now of the opinion that it does. How or why, I am not yet sure, but I wouldn’t have struggled with its absence for 39 months, nor would I have been met with such positive greetings from family, acquaintances and fellow bloggers I’ve never physically met if this blog didn’t count.
In a world that is increasingly divided, where there is no shortage of opinions without debate, of labels without understanding, it feels like an act of courage to write what I am. I believe that what ails this planet is an inability to stand the beauty and fragility of our humanity: we live in a constant state of fear, masked by anger – 2 emotions I am overfamiliar with. Perhaps my exercise of self-discovery, of claiming my own humanity, is my way of changing the world: an act of rebellion, of choosing to rise above the constant noise that drowns out all feeling, and replacing it with love. Perhaps not. Subject matter determines voice. Voice should be selfless.
I’ll figure it out eventually. I hope. Until then, thank you for joining me on this journey.