What I like best is when there is a certain hardness to my writing. When it’s stripped. Bare. Long on the nouns and verb. Short on the adjectives and adverbs.
In my mind, it’s rock or bone. Flinty and inevitable.
The voice is the hardest to find. So slippery. Always hiding from me. I think this is why I write: to break through to that voice that feels most authentic, most me, but only comes with effort.
The voice isn’t mine in a first draft. First drafts are long, convoluted, muddy affairs. Even I get lost in the tortuous sentences. I write myself into holes and cover myself with brambles. There are starts. Stops. Dead ends. Roundabouts.
The writing shows the struggle that’s happening in my mind as I think it through. It’s not just finding the right words for the thoughts. It’s finding the thoughts too.
In a first draft, my thinking is generic, abstract, often sentimental. Cliché draws me like a magnet. (See?)
Rough drafts are usually three or four times longer than finished pieces. So much gets stripped away before the thought becomes visible.
I rarely start a piece knowing what I think it is.
I have certain territories I mine again and again. Writing. Trauma. Parenting. Learning. Reading. Teaching. My best pieces are somehow about all of those things.
Even when I think I know what a piece is, if it’s good, if it’s worth writing, it will surprise me.
I am always writing to be surprised.
Several pieces fail for the one that works.