The most difficult thing is to listen to your own voice. Not literally, though that’s usually no treat either. No. I mean, to listen to your inner voice, the one that speaks true and clear and honest. And in order to do that, by necessity, you must close out the clutter of the world, its clamor, its noise, its busy-ness, and most of all, its experts. Never is this more true than when it comes to writing.
I don’t know where I went wrong along the way, but I am guilty of not closing out the clamor, and all of the above, but mostly, I am guilty of not closing out the experts. They rattle me. Their MFA’s and their snotty little cliques, with that clear dividing line between the “educated” and the “uneducated” when it comes to writing. I let them get to me, let them make me feel less than, not equal to, not enough. I did it. I allowed it. I let them make me doubt my work and my ability, and even sneer down my own nose at me. Who am I to think I can write? Who am I to think I will ever be published in all the right places if I don’t know the right people, go to the oh-so-IN writer’s workshops and retreats? Who am I to think I have anything to offer that others might find refreshing, enlightening, entertaining, meaningful even.
Who am I? Yes, that is the question, and if I am true to my work, then I am what I write. When I am in the zone, when I am writing from sheer inspiration, when I can feel a column of pure white light come from above and fill me, flowing out through my fingers onto the keyboard, well then I am me. Then I am inspired. Then I am writing my true work. And no degree from any pedigreed university, and no rubbing shoulders with big names will make me any more of a writer, an artist, than I am in that moment.
And I need to remember that, because true genius exists in all of us, from the most humble, uneducated, backwoods person to the scholarly, sophisticated, well bred intellectual. Given the choice between these two extremes, if I had to guess which one could teach me more about life and about writing, I’d lay my bets on the back woods boy. Hands down. Because I know that at least when he opens his mouth to speak, it will be his raw, unvarnished truth he’ll be sharing with me, and not some regurgitated spittle passed down from well-known professors and literary gurus.
That being said, we are all gifted, even if we have the detriment of an extensive education. And we each bear a burden. The burden for the common person is to believe in her voice enough to be able to share it, despite criticism from the learned crowd. And the burden for the over-educated is to find her genius beneath the layers of learning that seek to squelch her true voice.