I found the blog My Growth as a Writer (A Personal Perspective) by sci-fi and dark fantasy writer @kmarkhoover very thought-provoking. It got me reflecting on my own writing journey to date and the inevitable trials and tribulations that every writer (aspiring or established) goes through in a lifetime, no matter the particular stage they are at. He talks honestly of his long learning curve; I see the arc of my learning trajectory ever bending upward. By that, I mean my life as a writer is in its relative infancy – the learning never stops: the road is long; the adventure, exciting. For one thing, I’m extremely curious – I think all who write are. For me, writing and reading walk hand-in-hand and reading is, by its very act, a probing and edifying experience.
But I think the one big lesson I’ve contended with over the last two decades is finding my voice. Writing honest prose. When I was younger, I definitely confused mimicry for writing that is shaped naturally by external influences. Rather than digesting the inspiring writing of others, letting it steep, and then enrich my own creativity, I (unconsciously) produced poor-man’s reproductions of others’ narrative-styles I found engaging. The result was embarrassing: the writing was dishonest. I had been attempting to write with another’s voice. Wrong. Clearly. But understanding the theory of something is different to realising it in practical terms. First, I had to understand and accept that I was doing it; then I had to change the habit. It took me until my early 20s to recognise this in myself and then move toward finding my own voice, stylistically and within the bare-bones of the narratives I wrote. I grew frustrated. Irritated by my unsatisfactory efforts. I was on the road without a compass and no-one had told me about the pot-holes. I was stuck.
Then one day, I wrote something that I felt was honest. It was very rough round the edges, but honest nevertheless. An invisible weight had begun to lift from my shoulders. Perhaps it was the tomes of authors I so admired but had been painfully trying to emulate. I don’t know if it was a gradual maturing (still going!) or the value of time and space, but I definitely sensed an internal change. Here was narrative that had truly come from me. I felt connected to what I was writing. I was flowing to my own style and rhythm.
Now, in my early thirties, I have produced a novel I am proud of (The Procurement of Souls #PoS) and look forward to its release into the big wide world this summer. Readers may love it, like it or hate it (I really hope the former!) but at least it has come from me. It is my first and is of course driven by personal stylistic choices and quirks. I’m sure in time, I may look back and see aspects of it that I wish I’d done differently. Mistakes even? Again, at least they’re my own. I’m looking forward to making more and seeing the fruits they bear.