As far as I can tell, for all 22 of my years on Earth, it has lurked deep within my being, hungering insistently for the destruction of my fragile, but genuine love for language itself. Although it only shows its actual face on rare occasion, in the quietest hours of the night, I can always make out the sound of its breathing: a cruel, rumbling snarl that swears no word, no syllable, no letter I’ve ever typed has merit, a piercing cry that says my work has never been worth reading, a sharp roar that strips away any semblance of accepted self competence.
No matter how constant or concerted my attempts to do so – and believe me, there have been many — I have not yet found a way to destroy the backing soundtrack of my imagination. I don’t think I ever will, truthfully. The same sounds have tortured every producer of prose before me, and will almost certainly repeat in the heads of those after, as well.
But I have found reprieve from all the noise and from my inner demon in the moments when the words lying before me come alive, singing a song I will never hear anywhere else. Sometimes, I can catch a snatch of it after a particularly satisfying sentence, or following a turn of phrase. On extremely rare occasion, it even plays in full at the end of a finished piece.
Where and when I encounter it, though, are far less important than what, and what it is is some combination of honed passion, honesty, and vulnerability, traits shared by all writerly voices, but finally clicking together in an arrangement that resembles no one else’s. Something that is mine, and mine alone.
In those moments, I have won. I have quieted the beast inside of me, able to drown out its shrieks and yells with my own voice – not the voice granted to me simply by virtue of speaking or writing or birth, but what I instinctively know to be, beyond anything else, my voice. This must seem like such an odd, and perhaps even hollow, way to claim victory over what is destined to be a lifelong nemesis, but the knowledge that such a thing – a voice, authentically my own — even exists reminds me why it is I keep struggling with language, all doubts be damned.
True, a voice is not a guarantee of a work of worth, but no work of worth will ever exist without a voice. And in these moments, brief and fleeting as they may be, I know again with whole hearted-certainty that I might one day have both.
I simply have to keep at it.