Sunday 25 March 2012

Finding a voice and falling in love.

I read with interest a blog post by Philippa Francis where she makes some very interesting points on how useful 'copying' can be. As I said in a comment I left there at the University of Winchester we have a module entitled Textual Intervention, where we get our students to take existing stories (Gothic and fairy tales) and make them their own. A wonderful array of stories and poems often appear at assessment time. I think this is another process involved in 'finding your voice' as a writer. I have been reading Al Alvarez's little book entitled The Writer's Voice and he says ' [writers] do what all young people do: you try on other people's personalities for size and fall in love.' My understanding is that as an early writer you try on the voices of writers you fall in love with to see if they fit. They inevitably won't but they will help you further form your own voice. They help you find out who you are and, just as importantly, who you are not as a writer.

I also love this idea that as writers we fall in love. I think this is very true. I would suggest that we not only fall in love with other writers but with people. We collect people and add them to our extended families as they also inform our writing. They are inevitably people who have something to say. On this basis, I must be a writer because I fall in love with people so easily and they very soon become part of my extended family. All have a story to tell as to how they are now 'family'. And when I fall in love I give them the whole of my heart. I was lucky last weekend to celebrate my grandson's naming ceremony and it was full of 'fake' family that I had fallen in love with as well as 'normal' family. I should probably point out that the idea of fake is obviously not a slur it is just as way of highlighting the lack of blood relation.

In these days of instant access some of these friendships are technologically based. Some people I know scorn this and suggest that these cannot be real. I disagree. We may not have met face to face (or only on rare occasions) but our long conversations (via Skype or Google+ or Facebook or email) mean, to me, that our friendship is just as valid. We are writers and we support each other. It doesn't matter where you are in the world often the problems you face are the same.

Yesterday, for example, I spent a glorious afternoon with a member of my 'fake' family. We both fell in love with the artist above, Carol Sproston, whose work is currently available at The Wykeham Gallery. We talked a lot and laughed even more, but that is what being part of a 'fake' family is all about.

Treasure your 'fake' family and remember that falling in love is all about being a writer. Therefore something suitably corny to finish with and also something, for me, that brings back many happy memories connected with my children.

PS I promised I would let you know when my article on creative judgement and writing young adult fiction was available, well here it is:


  1. You are so right about falling in love with other writers. Thank you for the reference and this post.

  2. I LOVE this post, it's beautiful, Ness, and so very eloquent.

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  4. Thank you both. I am glad you enjoyed the post

  5. A wonderful post and a delightful description of the world of the writer.

  6. Thank you Amanda. Am so delighted that so many of you got something out of this post.