Writing & Drumming: Finding A Voice

I ask many authors who I interview the same question: Do you write for a wider audience, or do you write for yourself? Not surprisingly, most of the independent authors I’ve interviewed are writing because of a passion for a specific subject or because they just want to write and, essentially, write for themselves. 

I’ve been writing since high school, writing professionally since college, as a newsperson, and then later as a communications director for a company. I’d have to say that today, I write for my own enjoyment. Some of my characters are based on composites of actual people, but no one individual. I can fantasize and find a way to make stories come alive on the page or as an audiobook so that a total stranger might be interested in reading it. My theory is, if I’m interested in it, I think other people may be interested. 

In the fall of 2021, I had the opportunity to attend the annual convention of the Percussive Arts Society, a global collection of drummers and percussionists gathering once a year to hear music, workshops and see the latest gear. One of the workshops reminded me of writing. It was presented by a drummer named Tommy Igoe. He is an astonishing technician. He led a big band in New York for a number of years, but he also plays funk, blues, jazz and rock. He’s what I would call an aggressive drummer. He’s not afraid to really attack the kit and he’s got an ego the size of New Jersey and I mean that in a good way. He’s very driven and he’s very passionate about the instrument. During his workshop, he talked a lot about finding your own voice as a drummer, as a musician, the way you interpret music, the way you interpret songs.

I found so much of what he said relevant to writing. It’s one thing to learn grammar and spelling and sentence structure and all that’s important. But you really have to find your voice. You have to find out what it is that you want to write about and why. What is your motivation for writing the way you do? In my case, I am now able to tell stories that I wasn’t able to tell in 25 plus years as a journalist when I was reporting the news as unbiased and as fairly as possible, a process that keeps you within certain guardrails. Now, I can make things up. I can come up with stories.

You look in the mirror and you look at the guy or girl looking back at you and you ask, what is it that person trying to say? What is it that you’re trying to do? And once you figure that out, I think you can move forward with a lot more nimbleness in terms of coming up with storylines, plotlines, figuring out what you want characters to do, and why.

And finally, there’s the search for truth, as my 10th grade English teacher Mr. Corasick used to say. If you can get to a universal truth, large or small and express it without ambiguity, you’ve achieved a worthy goal. If and when you do, you’re at the threshold of artistic greatness.

I talk more about this subject in my podcast, Type. Tune. Tint.. The relevant episode is below:

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