Monday, 14 November 2011

Blame it On the Bossa Nova...

I am told to just be myself, but as much as I have practiced the impression, I am still no good at it. ~Robert Brault

Sometimes I fantasize I’m Joan Jett. Yeah, Joan Jett. You wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve rocked with the scratchy-throated hard rock diva with her song, Hide-n-Seek. In the privacy of my white truck, I’m cool, I’m badass. I’m the sultry crooner with the scruffy jet locks and perfectly smeared mascara. I’m skinny, I’m bitchin’, I’m Joan.

This morning on the way to work, I played Eydie Gorme and her 1963 hit, Blame it On the Bossa Nova. Passing driver hadn’t a clue that in the nondescript vehicle zipping down Highway 90 West was a sixties gal dressed in cute Capri pants and ruffled cut-off top—teased bubble cut hairdo, the whole nine yards. Yes, I imagined I did the Bossa Nova, just like Eydie, with some wallflower guy who just happened to be able to swing his hips like Elvis.
The car and the bathtub. My two favorite places to create imaginary worlds where I can be anybody, do anything. Singer, dancer, actress, famous author, world traveler, queen of a country, mysterious rich recluse, 1920’s flapper, swooning captive of a desert sheik.

In my dreams, I’m always cool. No matter what I’m doing or who I am, I’m…cool.

To BE cool is a fantasy for me. But in reality? I’m really pretty boring. I don’t stand out in a crowd. Hell, I’ll rarely BE in a crowd. I’m not in the ‘in’ crowd at work, I’m never on the inside track of the good jokes. I just hear the laughter from my desk. I’m not…cool.

As I’ve matured—and, damn, that seems to have taken forever—I’ve learned to accept not being on the inside of the nucleus. I’ve embraced my life, just as it is, and I’ve found it’s not so bad. It’s not so bad being C. Zampa.

One thing, though, that’s still in the infancy stages of my journey of self-acceptance is my writing.

I’m going to get some frowns when I say what I’m about to say, and that’s all right. It’s important to me to understand myself and my flaws in order to progress, to grow in my writing career.

What am I going to say that might make you frown? I’m going to be honest and say I sometimes get jealous of others’ writing talent. There. I said it.

It’s just the truth.

One of my writing idols is James Ellroy. I took a moment to read a bit from his American Tabloid last night and found myself envious of his snappy style. His ability to draw this panoramic painting with nothing but a fast-moving stream of short, clipped semi-sentences. As though he wrote the entire novel huddled under a window with bullets flying over his head…but still produced a powerhouse of a story.
I’m jealous of that. Why can’t I write like that?

I love to read romance novelist Laura Kinsale. Her characters—especially her heroes—are so achingly real, so brilliantly layered, I lock them up in my heart long after the book is returned to the shelf.

Again, why can’t I write like that?

Mary Renault. Oh, why, why, why can’t I bring my thoughts to life as she could?

So many authors, so many books, so many VOICES.
And that one word—voice—is the key. Every day, I have to force myself to focus on that one tiny word. Voice. And, if I CAN focus on it, I realize it’s not a matter of whether writers are better than each other. It’s a matter of styles. It’s a matter of readers’ tastes for various styles. Voices.

If I spend my career trying to mold my own voice to mimic an author—any author—I admire, I am wasting my time. I will NEVER grow. I will NEVER know what I’m truly capable of.
Oh, I might be successful in my echoing of some other writer, but I’ll lose out on the most fabulous, the most beautiful, the most rewarding and satisfying part of my own journey—FINDING MYSELF.

I have to cultivate my own voice.

Suppose you have two gardens, side by side. In one is a collection of beautiful cacti. In the other is a bed of lush tropical foliage. If you attempted to tend both gardens the same, one of them would die. The cactus would die from too much water or the lush foliage would die from none. They’re not the same. They each need cultivation to be what they’re intended to be, to reach their full beauty. But only cultivation for their own particular variety.

Same with our writing voices.

It’s difficult to relax, to let go and allow your own voice to mature. There is so much talent out there among my peers and it’s so hard to not be envious.

But, hey. Just as I’m not cool, I’m indeed not Joan Jett—C. Zampa is also not James Ellroy, nor does she need to try. I don't want Ellroy to feel threatened…joking here…but I also just needs to realize something. The important thing.

Being C. Zampa isn’t so bad, either. Who knows, when I realize my potential, just what that will be? Whatever it turns out to be, the voice will be mine.

And, in closing. Just what the hell IS the Bossa Nova?

Joan Jett C. Zampa


Amy Lane said...

What a lovely analogy... and God, when you get to be cool (cause I'm pretty sure you're heading there...) umm, let me know what it's like? I'll be hanging out, eyeballing you jealously, from the extreme electron position of the molecule.

Jambrea said...

I agree...that was a great analogy. :)'re already cool C. Zampa. I envy your voice and the beauty in every word you write.

Sarah Ann Watts said...

Mary Renault - how did she do it?

Great post - isn't that the joy of writing? We can be anyone we want to?

by Sarah Lee said...

I love this blog. You're more a real person than anyone I know, sweet sis. And your beautiful, inside and out. I love your words, your characters and your kind spirit. Hugs!

RowanS said...

Says in the song! It's the Dance of Love! Pfft! Yep, I'm old enough to remember the words...
Lovely post. I struggle with the same envy, and am not sure if I've found my own voice yet. But yours - your voice is lovely. :)
Keep on keeping on!

Lisa Alexander Griffin said...

Carol, you have a beautiful voice all your own. Unique and flowing. Cultivate it to its full worth and be proud to say "I am C. Zampa, Author Extraordinaire."

Love you, hon.

Beautiful pic, btw. :)

Dorien Grey said...

Terrific blog, Carol! And nice to see the "real" Joan Jett.

anny cook said...

Oooooh. I'm so uncool, I'm perspiring... Doesn't it amaze you how some people can convey more with one sentence than others do with an entire book? I love words.

Be yourself. That's the only thing we're really good at. All that other stuff? That's not us. We're works of art on our own, if only we allow ourselves to be.

Mykola ( Mick) Dementiuk said...

Write what you wanna write and the hell with the other meaningless drivel. Stick to your dreams, they won't fail. Be honest with the writer in you, I believe she's honest with you, no? Make it a two way trip you're on, each helping and inspiring the other along the way. Your muse is the greatest friend you'll ever have. Nurture it, savor it and you'll both smile as you get closer to where you want to be. Life is beautiful is a dull boring cliche that we've heard countless times until you experience it for yourself, because in the end Life is very beautiful indeed. Savor it! It won't let you down. I can guarantee it ;)

Kristoffer Gair said...

Just remember that if you're jealous of another writer's voice or style, there will be those who are jealous of yours. =)

And I own (I think) every Joan Jett album out there.

Julie Lynn Hayes said...

Carol, you already have an amazing, unique and wonderful voice! You are sweet and smart and knowledgable! If we lived closer together, I'd be proud to hang with you!

Just keep on being you!

C. Zampa said...

LOL, Amy Lane! I for one, think you're terribly cool!

But you know, maybe it's us on the outside of the..what did you call it...of the nucleus ARE the cool bunch?

Nice to see you!

C. Zampa said...

Oh, Jambrea, and I love your writing. And you ARE way cool. I love your characters! You convey them srongly and so purely, and I go again...I envy that!

Thank you, sweetie.

C. Zampa said...

Hello, Sarah Ann!
It IS very cool, isn't it? The power to be who we want with nothing more than our imagination.

And Mary Renualt. Oh, big sigh. What a beautiful story teller she was. One of the best ever in my opinion.

C. Zampa said...

Hello and hugs, sweet sis!

And I can say the same for you...all of it. Wonderful, sincere person, inside and out. And a wonderful friend.

Hugs and love to you.

C. Zampa said...

LOL, Veronica! I'm afraid I remember the song and words, too! Loved that song growing up.

Thank you so very much...we WILL find our voices, we will!

C. Zampa said...

Love you, Lisa!

Speaking of lovely voices, I love the voice of Lisa Alexander Griffin! Wonderful talent as a writer and wonderful person!

Hugs to you!

C. Zampa said...

Hey, Dorien!

Yeah, get a load of that Joan! LOL!
Thank you for of the most wonderful voices I know is you!

C. Zampa said...

Hello and welcome, Anny Cook!

I like your thought, that we're all our own works of art.

We are, aren't we?

C. Zampa said...

Hello my friend, Mick.
If anyone would know about finding their voice, it would certainly be you. Yours is most unique and so very true. A wonderful voice.
Love you!

C. Zampa said...

Kage, thanks!
I'm not so sure about others envying my style or voice, but you never know!

Hey, I've got most of Joan's albums, too...oh, geez, even on LP. Sigh.

C. Zampa said...

Hey, Julie Lynn!
Thank you so very much.
And it would be fun hanging out. We might not be cool, but two writers would sure never run out of conversation, would they?


AlanChinWriter said...

Well said, Carol. These days voice is the main thing I struggle with. It only gets harder, yet that is where much of the joy is hidden--creating something that no one else can. And no matter how good our voice, I think it will continue to change as we mature as writers.

I enjoyed your post,

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

Carol, you are fabulous. You're extraordinary. You're a wonderful writer. You're superb! And yes, I'm mighty jealous.

I love your blog! You say what I'm thinking, but in just an unique and fascinating way. Bravo.

C. Zampa said...

Hey, Alan!

You are right. That IS where a great part of the joy is. Evolving. Always an adventure.

Wouldn't trade it for the world.

C. Zampa said...

Ah, Joylene!

YOU are extraordinary, fabulous and wonderful!

And, oh, if I could put a story together with vivid characters like yours.

You're tops, lady! And you've been one of my idols ever since I met you.

Anonymous said...

We've discussed this long and hard ... good to see you get it out there. And dang it, I thought I was special getting a pic of you and then you go and show the world! LOL. You look wonderful and I'm proud of you for showing "you" off. (((Hugs))).

BTW, my word verification code for this is "fishi" which is funny w/ the water behind you. LOL!

Unknown said...

I do think I go on and on about how I love your voice, and i have it on very good authority that there is someone out there who envies your extraordinary eloquence.* points to self*. I learn from you every rime we cross paths, my dear. I learn, again and again, the rewards of being the hardest thing in the universe to be :genuinely me. And you inspire me to try harder.thank you, mt friend.

C. Zampa said...

Oh, Sarah B., girl, we DO talk about this so much, don't we? And you keep me in line, knock me back on track every time I start to falter.
Love your for that, my friend.

Damn, we have been together since each others' beginnings. You are far ahead of me, but still there beside me in heart.


C. Zampa said...

Oh, Jaime, I appreciate that and I know you're sincere.

But, let me tell you. It's YOU who I learn from every time we cross paths.

You have a way of expression that makes everything so crystal clear and yet so beautiful. And that's just your everyday talk! LOL. Your writing is beyond beautiful. It's something I strive for. Maybe not a voice---I can't imitate that, it's too unique---but the care you tender to every word. Gives me chills.

I mean that with all my heart.

Eric Arvin said...

Wonderful piece! There have been a few times I've been ready to thrown in the towel after reading something because it was so good. Books by James Purdy, Jeanette Winterson, Jamie O'Neill, and Hal Duncan, to name a few.

C. Zampa said...

Hey, Eric!

Yep, I've nearly done the same thing, too. Or at the very least, have stopped writing temporarily, having been discouarged by reading something so much better than my own writing.

But we don't stop, though, do we?

Harlie Williams said...

Carol, I knew you were a cool chick! Love, love Joan Jett. When I need a serious pick me up, I pop in a cd of her's and crank it.


C. Zampa said...

LOL! You, too, Harlie!
I really, really do crank her up, too, and get down with her.

Nice to see you!

Moria said...

I love that picture of you...Joan:) lol Confession, I do the same thing, singing in the van, dancing in my living room and being super cool. (ok, my kids do a lot of laughing at me but...) Great post and so true. I often compare myself to other writers in a negative way. I always feel that everyone out there is so much better than me. Then I remember why I write.

Thanks for the reminder that my voice is important too.

C. Zampa said...

Hi there, Moria!
It sure is good to see you, and thank you!

I have a feeling you're going to have quite a voice in your own writing. You've had experiences that have put you through the fire and you've had to decide how much DO you want to write. And you've seen that it is a true passion.

Wishing you happy writing!