Saturday, July 17, 2010


We all hear inner voices -- at least that's what the self-help writers would have us believe. Not the dangerous kinds that could get us institutionalized, but the nagging kinds that tell us we're not rich/smart/successful/sexy/just plain good enough. ("That expensive college education, and you're working in a bookstore?")

Shalom Auslander hears voices every day when he sits down to write, and I imagine anyone who has ever tried to put words on paper (or a computer screen) in a creative way will understand his predicament. In a recent article for "Tablet Magazine" Auslander labeled some of the many voices which second-guess his writing efforts, and while a number of them are specific to his being a Jewish author who writes humorously of his heritage, others are the type that can annoy anyone. There's the "Derogatory Scholar/Marshall McLuhan" voice (" should have gone to college. You should have gone to graduate school. You should have gone to the Iowa Writers Workshop."). Or the mellow but damning "Garrison Keillor Writer's Almanac" voice ("If you do enough serious things, for a seriously long time, I might someday mention your birthday. But this? This is not of birthday-mentioning caliber."). Or the dreaded "New York Times Book Review" voice (" isn't an important new work, it isn't a bold new voice, it isn't the future of American fiction, and it doesn't limn anything."). And, of course, the most pervasive and dreaded of all, the "Voice of American Express": "This better sell well, you're carrying a tremendous amount of debt."

Auslander's article with his full list of voices (funny, but warning: strong language) can be found here.

("Patrick, do you really think this blog post is informative or clever enough to publish? Are you sure?")

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