Entries in Dagobah (1)
I have a friend (let's call her Flicka) who is in her late twenties and single. Which means that everyone she knows has found a mate and is talking about houses and kids. Flicka, meanwhile, has managed a few relationships that didn't pan out for her.
I refer to this moment in life as "The Dagobah Syndrome." When Luke Skywalker senses evil shenanigans a-happening in the Force, he dumps his Jedi training mid-course to go help. Yoda, dismayed, warns Luke that this moment in his training is the most dangerous because he has knows just enough to be powerful, but not enough to control it. But, Luke being in his late twenties, leaves Dagobah and heads off to get his best friend out of the frozen foods aisle elsewhere across the galaxy, to some really bad early results.
Flicka, likewise, is old enough to know the concept of sharing her life with someone, but not wise enough to control her emotions. She often says things like "Maybe it's time I just settle down with somebody." But she doesn't know who that somebody is.
Moreover, she doesn't know who she is. Flicka spends a lot of time trying to figure out the right guy for her, but when I asked her if she knew who she was yet, she froze. My advice was: Don't just find a guy and settle down with a house and kids. Don't fall into the trap of thinking you should be doing something just because it seems like everyone around you is doing something. You have to know who you are before you can really make a successful run at a life with someone else.
I find this same issue in a lot of writers. They don't have their own voices yet, so they try to mimic someone they like. Which means that they know how to write well enough to string together cohesive sentences, but not enough to control it over the course of a book. Flashes of their own personalities mix with paragraphs lifted straight from the Faulkner playbook, generally to some really bad early results.
Finding your own voice as a writer is an easy job that we all (myself included) make a lot harder than it has to be. I don't know why or how, but we all tend to ignore the big, neon, flashing "us" we've been carrying around since birth and spend years trying to imitate other people. It's a noble idea, but it's tantamount to a natural-born runner ignoring his skills in order to work on his ballroom dancing (which he's horrible at).
Build your strengths. You know what you like and what you don't. I'll even refer you to an earlier blog of mine in which I discuss my reasons for killing a novel I'd been working on. The story just wasn't me, and I feel a lot better having dumped it.
Finding your own voice starts with listening to yourself. A good indicator of who you really are is how you behave and what you say when you're around the person you're most comfortable being around. That person you look to and say "You know what I really think about all this?" is your guidepost. Listen to what you say, how you act, and what you feel around this person, who will not judge you. It might be your best friend, your husband, your golden retriever. Or it might be yourself -- you know, the you that comes out when you're driving alone and you pretend you're performing all the songs on the radio in front of a sellout crowd.
Without knowing your own voice, you will be in the same boat as Luke Skywalker after he leaves Dagobah -- you'll think you'll know what you're doing, but you'll end up losing your arm in a really bitchin' sword fight with your father.
Don't forget to check out my book trailer for Character Development from the Inside Out on my homepage.