So, he asked me to expand on what I thought was this natural, authentic voice...probably so that he can disagree with me again. Yes, Mr. Bailey, I'm psychic.
An authentic voice
Without getting into too many details, in 2008-2009, I had the opportunity to spend much less time on my day job and much more time on my fiction writing. During that time, I tried a bunch of literary experiments and discarded a lot of ideas I had about what I wanted to write. I felt like I got all of my writerly promiscuity out of the way in just six short months.
When that happened, I found myself at a loss for words. Suddenly, all of the techniques, all of the poetics, all of the technical tools that I considered to be in my arsenal had been culled. I no longer relied on Faulkner's technique of splicing words together or McCarthy's stringing together of actions with the word "and." I stopped making my characters take quick steps like Anna Karenina, and I didn't let them blush to the hairline anymore. In other words, I stopped using other writers' inventions in a major way.
What I was left with was myself and my observations of the real world. If my character couldn't blush to the hairline (because, after all, Tolstoy came up with that), I had to observe real people in their real embarrassing situations and discover for myself how they responded. I needed to pay attention to myself and see how I responded when embarrassed. If I couldn't link together several actions with "and" I had to come up with my own sentence structures based on how I organized my own thoughts.
To me, this was finding my voice. I was writing based on what I was observing in life and how I was organizing those observations. That to me is authenticity.
Of course I couldn't completely be free. After all, I still had concepts like the metaphor to use. I didn't erase entirely my knowledge of the English language, and that in a sense will always be polluted by what I'v read before. But, I felt like I was working from a much simpler base.
In many ways, this made my life a whole lot harder. Writing progressed at a much slower pace. Everything I wrote required much more thinking for myself. But, my life also got a lot easier because I felt like I was making up my own answers and solving my own problems. When I was stealing techniques from Tolstoy, I was always comparing myself to him. He was an apple, and I was some sort of mutant, sub-apple. But, when I was inventing my techniques, I was suddenly an orange. And, even if I could imagine myself tasting better or glowing brighter to reach my own standards, I was comforted in knowing that I would have my own slot at the farmer's market.
I think that when we stop using other writers' voices, we start having to invent our own, and that comes out on the page. I believe that readers find these sorts of authentic voices more compelling simply because they are totally new ways of looking at the world. Now, more than ever, I feel like I am observing life, and I'm observing it because I want to write about it in my own voice.