Al Geremonte, the old Guadalcanal platoon sergeant who taught me to write nearly 50 years ago, said it over and over in that Boston drawl: “Kid, you write like you talk and you learn to talk right. Simple as that.”
And it is. Simple, I mean. Simple when you aren’t being pulled by every teacher you’ve ever had, every parent, every friend–hell, everybody–to sound like somebody else. The temptation to teach us to write in a manner that sounds like somebody else is entirely too much for the school system and my experience is that the more schooling one has, the worse the writing.
Occasionally, in those rare educational oases where a teacher takes a moment to consider what she is doing (Hollins University comes to mind), a teacher will mention “voice” and its importance. To my mind, “voice” is writing and writing is “voice.” Without it, everybody sounds like he’s writing for the local daily newspaper. It’s writing without soul, without feeling, without purpose other than who, what, where, when, why and how. Just the facts, ma’am.
At our little magazine, Valley Business FRONT, we often use writers nobody else wants, people without the resume telling the editor that a writer sits on the other side of the desk.
I don’t care what the resume says. Generally, about a third of it’s made up, anyway, and it can’t tell me if you can write, if you have enthusiasm, curiosity, drive and tenacity. So, when somebody comes in and says, “I’ve never had a job writing before, but I have this real need …”, it isn’t necessary to go farther. We can negotiate from there. It’s a great starting point and most often, our magazine’s readers have been the beneficiary.
When a writer has “voice,” you can see him in every word, hear him speak to you, feel the experience he is relating. That’s when it becomes fun for the reader and the writer. It’s the level real writers–and not chroniclers–seek when they write, that deep connection with the reader.
Dan Smith is the kind of guy we like breaking bread with – he’s great in a conversation, easy with a laugh and has just the kind of smart ass humor that we love here at No B.S. Oh, he’s also an award-winning journalist, editor of Valley Business FRONT, author, photographer, blogging Pampa and, occasionally, a wonderful home cook who goes by the name of Mother Smith.