There have been occasions when I have been visiting friends and I would look up at a wall and announce with gleeful enthusiasm “Oh my God! What amazing artwork! It’s gorgeous! Did you just get it?” to which my friends would reply “Uhhh…Andre, it’s been up for 3 years, haven’t you noticed it before? Uhmmm… I’m glad you like it”. Admittedly, I do not always have a great sense of observation for things like that.
The interesting part is that when I was a kid, I totally rocked at Sesame Street’s “One of these things is not like the others”. And today, I have a strange talent when proofreading large bilingual documents (large, as in hundreds of pages) of being able to recall that a certain word was translated one way 150 pages ago, and is translated differently on the page in front of me. How and why my sense of observation is radically sharper in this case, I will never know. For others, it may the exact opposite. Isn’t it wondrous how our brains all work differently and we all notice and see things in different ways?
At one time or another, I am certain you have been in a situation where two people explained to you how an event unfolded, an event they both witnessed, yet it sounds like two completely different stories. We all perceive and react to situations differently based on our moods, our feelings, our respective points of reference and all the factors in our history that make us who we are. Not only does our unique sense of observation impact how we react to situations, but it also impacts how we convey them to others.
Ever since I launched my blog and started taking my writing much more seriously, the theme “writer’s voice” seemed to come up frequently in my research and in the advice from authors, agents and publishers. It is part of the journey in finding out one’s unique writing style, comfort zones and preferred niche for writing, as well as also defining what the author really has to say. In looking back over the body of work I accumulated over the years, journal entries, story ideas, my contributions as a writer, my blog entries (the ones I have already posted, the ones that are in line waiting to be posted, as well as those themes on a list, waiting to be written) I think I have finally had my epiphany and found the common denominator!
It seems my affinity is to write about what I observe, or observed and retold in a creative way. This may not sound like an earth-shattering conclusion, but it is to me, in realizing that perhaps my reason for being here and the reason that I have such strong reflexes as a writer are perhaps a calling as a type of social archivist or social historian. I seem to have a knack for taking day-to-day events (sometimes seemingly inconsequential ones) and wrap them up in a story line without boundaries, magnifying its complexities that others may be too busy to notice. Add to that a writing style that is as individual as a fingerprint and there you have the authentic voice of me, the writer!
It would also explain why, as a teenager, I was madly in love with author Erma Bombeck. Her books were adaptations of her syndicated newspaper column, in which she would take typical, mundane, day-to-day family situations and retell them in a style that had me in absolute stitches, recounting in intricate detail every human foible that was completely relatable which made it so funny. Her talent in this regard was only surpassed by her unique storytelling style which was never mean-spirited nor bitchy, just a self-deprecating and loving sense of humour that placed the spotlight on the funny things we humans do when we interact as friends, family and neighbours.
While her columns ran from the mid-1960s to the late-1990s most of her stories are timeless. Sure, we do not have too many station wagons with wood paneling anymore, but replace those with SUVs full of kids’ athletic equipment and the stories hold!
To this day, I am inspired by Erma Bombeck’s way of telling stories, and the list of blog topics I have ahead of me are clearly conducive to that style of storytelling. Even though that style comes naturally to me and there is a clear process in my head for writing that way, there is still work to be done to sharpen the reflexes for it to be that much more intuitive, since my writing reflexes are still sharply focused on the business writing I do in my day job. And once I have my authentic style nailed down, it is my goal to break out of that comfort zone, as I do have a few fiction projects in development, but it will take time and consistent practice to get to that point. Nonetheless, even though pure fiction is a different realm, guess where the inspiration for the story telling comes from?… the observation of day-to-day life experiences, rewritten in a way that “protects the innocent”.
Ultimately, my need to write is equivalent to the need to eat, sleep and breathe. Finding clarity in my writer’s voice is a giant leap forward in my journey, even if it did not seem like a huge surprise, and makes the writing process that much easier when one’s purpose and direction is clearly laid out. If in the process of finding and building upon this discovery, there are readers ready to take time out of their busy schedules to be entertained by this new writer’s voice and point of view then it makes it that much more worth it.
So maybe I don’t notice new haircuts, new furniture or new artwork as easily as others. I hope I make up for it with a unique sense of observation and am able to present you with a “mirror” to see the funny moments in your life you might have missed!