‘My Voice’, formerly ‘Creatia and the Search for Light’
by Naomi Sutherland
It’s really something to write your autobiography when you’re not famous. #reallynottryingtobefamous. This didn’t start as an autobiography - I wrote 97,000 words of a novel first.
“How did you like my book?”
“It’s not really a book, Names. It’s just loads of words.”
My mum was nicer to me than she normally is, which means it was an abomination. Indian mothers don’t mince their words with their children; they save all their mincing for outside the genetic circle.
“Mum, you’re looking so well!”
“Thanks, you’re not.”
But she was very kind about my book and that’s because writing 97,000 words of crud is actually that bad. Some parts were so bad, I actually did burst out laughing. Like when one of the characters goes into the kitchen to find his mother rummaging around in a corner cupboard looking for a biscuit. A biscuit? The story is about the spurious forces that lead to the subjugation of creativity (education, social order, modern financial systems) which manifest in various forms of greed, of which one is gluttony. Does this come out in the book? Not remotely: it just sounds like someone eating a biscuit. 97,000 words of biscuit eating until the biscuits run out. Worse still, even if I had successfully tied creative subjugation to gluttony, no presentation of gluttony through any form of biscuit eating merits written form. She was right, it’s not a novel and I’m not a novelist. What is novel, is that I’m actually a singer, a singer with a novel, but I lost my voice when I was 16. I had a kind of mental breakdown and didn’t sing a note for a decade. I won’t try to describe the feeling in “novelic” terms because we’ll only end up with another biscuit. What I can say is that people don’t write stories because they have nothing to say. It’s a monstrous process: you have to create a whole world, then design the storyline and characters around it, but convincingly - so not like “hello…what are you hiding behind the closet?”; or overusing inappropriate terms from either literary incapacity or boredom, like “frothing” - which I applied to most concrete nouns, from roads, to houses, to people, to clothes, to the sun and the birds so that everything was “frothing” off the page - not to mention the idiotic conversations that occurred between characters that nobody would actually ever have - and then weave the poetry of human sensory experience (very difficult) into the storyline, which itself, has to reflect the themes (also very difficult). Then you have to finish. I’m proud of that bit and that bit alone. I finished the bloody thing. The rest is garbage. I’m not a novelist, no. Do I have a story? Ah. Now there’s a question: that I do. I have a story that has ended up being the subject of now my second book. Where to start? That’s easy. I’ll start with the core - my voice.