I’ve Been on Tenterhooks, Ending in Dirty Looks

In the 1990s, I was astonishingly, fearlessly sincere in my writing. I was fueled by things like Jonathan Carroll novels, Neil Gaiman comics, Alex Chilton’s Big Star lyrics, but more of all, youth: I felt the heartfelt need to be heartfelt as I stumbled into writing. This wasn’t true of everything I was writing — the stuff I wrote for the university newsletter was, thankfully, not impassioned and emotional, because I don’t think anyone would have wanted that — but if I was writing something “for me,” which is to say, for art school purposes or worse, gulp, a diary or something similar, there was this pained need to be understood right there at the center of it all.

In the early 2000s, I shifted into a knowing artifice that almost mocked the idea of sincerity or wearing my heart on my sleeve. It coincided with my starting writing for the internet, although I don’t think that’s why it happened. (I hope not, at least.) There’s a line in Grant Morrison’s Supergods where they make a reference to writing in an approximation of Alan Moore’s middle class English voice in order to become more palatable to a mainstream audience, and I remember reading that and chuckling to myself; unknowingly, I was writing in an approximation of Morrison’s Invisibles letter columns and knowing patter from interviews and text pieces at that time. So it goes, as Kurt Vonnegut puts it.

(Of course, Moore’s authorial voice that Morrison’s referring to is, itself, rooted elsewhere: there’s no small influence from Douglas Adams in there, as well as other English humorists of the mid-20th century. It’s mirrors, all the way down…)

I can remember, with surprising clarity, sitting on a bus headed to work one day in… 2006? 2007? and thinking about the voice in which I wrote at the time, feeling the pressure of the assumed irony and humor on my shoulders at the time. What if I could just write the emotional, vulnerable way I used to? I asked myself, and quickly put aside the idea as impossible: it would be too risky to be so open, I remember reasoning, and also, who really wants to read someone writing like that these days?

My current writing “voice,” such as it is came from… I don’t know… age…? Necessity? I like to think it’s more honest, a truer reflection of who I actually am these days. But then, one thing about this site is, I write this for me. It’s that rare thing where the cliche is true: if anyone’s actually reading this, I’m both surprised and honored. Welcome to the inside of my head.

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