Do You Hear What I Hear?

They started when I was very young, these voices in my head.

Not the seductive voice of a devil on the shoulder, nor the encouragements of a Jiminy Cricket.  These voices weren’t all that interested in my life.  They were far too busy telling me about theirs.  Telling me their stories.  Because they wanted me to tell them to others.

At first, I drew them.  Superheroes, mostly.  Spurred on by comic books and Adam West’s Batman, my imagination flourished.  Then I started putting words to the pictures and that changed everything.

I didn’t know it at the time, but I realized it much later: this was how I learned.  At school, a teacher would tell us a story–say, Lewis and Clark, or the Hindenburg disaster–and I would write a play about it for my class to perform.  Because I heard the voices of the characters in the stories.  I could picture their worlds.

I thought everybody had little movies playing in their heads.  It wasn’t until I reached college that I realized only the chosen few are so afflicted.  It’s safe to say that most everyone hears a conscience, of course, but few actually experience full-blown characters playing out roles in extravagant productions complete with mood lighting and accompanying soundtracks.  One-act plays, IMAX 3-D blockbusters … they’re all there, running around the soundstage in my head. 

At Bucknell, professors and friends pushed me to get out these stories.  Write the voices.  Tell the tales.  No one said I was crazy (although a few family members expressed concern for my career prospects).  Teachers, friends, and, perhaps most important, the writers who inspired me offered only encouragement.

So I listened, harder.  And I wrote.  Even as I followed a more “responsible” path, one with a paycheck.

A first job in television introduced me to actual TV scripts.  I took them home, devoured them at night, decided I could do that.  With the confidence that comes from ignorance and naivete, I wrote an L.A. LAW and sent my script away to Hollywood.  Months later, my phone rang.  A producer from L.A. LAW.  He liked the script, but told me they didn’t buy specs.  I didn’t know what a spec script was.  Tried to act like I did.  He said if I wanted to move to Los Angeles, they would like to meet with me.  He didn’t promise a job.  I didn’t move to L.A.  But I hung up the phone with confidence bolstered.

Still I listened, still I wrote.

As my business career thrived, so did the sounds and pictures in my head.  Soon enough, the voices were overwhelming, demanding their stories be told.  I took a sabbatical from the corporate world to finish a novel.  A big-time literary agent liked my manuscript.  She took me on, but didn’t sell the novel.  Confidence waned.  I went back to playing dress up in a suit and tie and spent my days drowning in meetings.

Still I listened, still I wrote.

A few years ago, I finally left the corporate world to follow my dream, to chase the voices.  Although my days spent pounding out prose in coffeeshops around the county are a blessing and a joy, the journey is not without its struggles, which I will detail in this blog from time to time.

But I listen and I write, because I have to, because there is no other choice.  Not when your head is full of voices, running amok with stories.

Maybe you hear them.  Not mine, but your own.  Your own set of characters, your own little world.

I imagine you do.  Pleased to meet you.  You must be a writer, too.

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5 thoughts on “Do You Hear What I Hear?

  1. No, I don’t hear stories in my head. But I sure like reading the stories that craz… I mean talented people like you write down!!

  2. Hey, Robb, great post, great blog. I got those voices. Sure do. Too many of them. I, too, have to earn a paycheck, but I am writing. I can’t not. I have too many voices. Pleased to meet you. Hopefully we will trade stories in the future and share opinions.
    Once you start writing (writing seriously) you realize that it is not simply a hobby, a pastime, but something more. It is a way of life. Long live literature. Long live reading. Long live writing.

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