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voice

Spent the entire morning with my handyman friend John, winterizing. A new verb – to winterize. That is, sealing windows, finding a place indoors for many plants, squeezing garden furniture into the shed, turning off the water. And of course, because this is not only an old house, it is MY old house, everything took twice as long as we thought it would, because nothing worked – the windows were buckled and swollen, the furniture disintegrating, the spigot unmovable. The job’s not done yet. People who live in the Southern Hemisphere should come north and watch, for fun, the fascinating, tortuous process of winterization.

On Sunday I went to a meditation session at the Y, led by friend Judy Steed. What a luxury, no, a necessity in our busy world, to sit in silence. Judy gave us a wonderful visualization: you’re on a beach, and in the distance, someone friendly approaching – “It’s yourself when you’re old,” she said. “The two of you greet, hug. And then coming from the other way, another friendly person – it’s your young self.” I watched her come, the 80 year old me, calm and smiling with white hair. And the 30-year old me, so fraught and intense, I wanted to hug her and say, relax, sweetie, really, it’ll be fine. It brought tears to my eyes, the three of us there together, old, middle-aged and young. And then I channeled really young me, the 14 year old of the memoir. A very interesting exercise – highly recommended.
When I told W*yson about it, he said, “Doesn’t work for me. Wheelchairs aren’t good on sand.”
On Saturday, the city was littered with people in those heat-catching aluminum capes, having just finished the fall Toronto marathon. I clapped and shouted Bravo! to each one I saw. Imagine, people do that as recreation. Crazy. The idealists of Occupy Toronto could use some of those capes; they are still camping downtown despite the cold, police choppers still hovering constantly. They haven’t changed the world yet. Always worth a try.
W*yson came for supper Sunday, and as we talked about work, he told me to send him ten of my best pages from the memoir. Those of you who’ve followed this blog know how painful that process has been in the past – receiving my precious pages back, slashed and annotated, so marked up they’re unreadable. Many exhortations with exclamation marks – Unpack! Raw! Muscle and bone! Don’t explain or romanticize – show!
Monday morning I picked out what I hoped were my ten strongest pages and sent them. Tuesday morning, I gritted my teeth as I clicked open the reply. “Congratulations!” it started out. I thought, maybe there’s hope here.
There is. He liked it. He really liked it. The voice works, he said. I have some suggestions, but it works.
I realized what voice is. Students ask all the time about voice – what is it, how can I find mine. I realized: your voice comes when you develop profound confidence in your words, in your right to tell your most important stories truthfully, in your own words, with your own innate rhythm and emotional truth. And also, of course, when you’ve simultaneously developed enough technique and craft to tell your truthful story vividly, economically, powerfully. That’s voice.
Onward, she said.

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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