A writer’s voice is as distinctive as a fingerprint.
One of the challenges I often face as a writer is deciding which voice I should turn to when writing something for a popular audience. Through years and years of institutional training, my default voice has become an academic one. And when the subject matter is particularly sensitive, like in my memoir about the friendship between Edwina and me and the circumstances that brought us together, I oftentimes find myself theorizing ideas rather than jumping into experiences and exchanges we’ve shared.
Speaking as an academic isn’t usually intentional in these instances. It’s simply easier, and far less painful, to write about matters like abuse and addiction and illness from a distance.
Since starting work on my memoir, I’ve taken some breaks to read work by authors whose default voice is a less academic one. People like Heidi Julavits, author of The Folded Clock, and Marina Keegan, whose posthumous book The Opposite of Loneliness speaks without pretense to readers.
The kind of pain and insight and wonder I’ve experienced as a breast cancer survivor and in my relationship with Edwina is the sort that’s felt first. I just wish that I could resist the urge to push down those feelings by over-thinking what it is they mean. Sometimes, it’s what we sense deep inside that matters most. It is enough.