T-Shirt Slogans or Writer’s Voice?

I’ve been thinking a lot this morning about what I’m trying to say.  I’ve been thinking about the point I’m trying to make here on this blog and in the book that I’m writing.  I’m trying to get clear and THAT is not always easy.  It reminds me of a question that I’ve always hated.  It’s the “what is your voice?” question.  I think every artist, writer, or comedian faces that question at one point or another.  I think some of us face it over and over.  The voice question has led me to thinking about catchphrases.  To me, the catchphrase is the most hysterical, trite, cheesy, yet (sadly) powerful transformation of one’s voice into a McDonald’s french fry to be consumed by the masses.  When I think about catchphrases, I’m reminded of 90’s health guru, Susan Powter and her infamous, “Stop the insanity” line.  I think of George Lopez’s “Si Se Puede” catch-all, which probably made him one of the highest selling comedic performers in the history of California.  There are so many memorable catchphrases for products and gurus and comedians, but the one that sums them all up – Tina Fey making a mockery of it all on 30 Rock by creating Jenna’s catchphrase, “That’s a deal-breaker, ladies!”


So, what the hell am I trying to say – overall – when I write?  I think at different times, it’s different things.  But, here are my thoughts on it this morning.


On Creativity:
On this blog I talk about the difficulty in living a creative life.  It’s very difficult, especially if you’re looking to get paid for it.  I am definitely looking to get paid for it.  I’ve always had my sights on that prize.  So, my feelings towards this experience can be best described as more of an image.  I often feel like I’m standing on a stage as part of that TV program called The Voice.  If you don’t know the program, it works like this:  talent executives and Hollywood stars sit in swivel chairs with their backs to the stage.  Unknown, wannabe singers take the stage and sing one by one.  If the “judge” likes their voice, they turn around.  If they don’t, they don’t.


In regards to my writing career, I’m standing on that stage.  The world is in the swivel chair with its back to me.  In this situation, my mind says one thing.  It is my catchphrase on living a creative life:

“How Long Until this A**hole Turns Around?”



On Sexuality and the Gay Movement:
When it comes to bigots who are vehemently anti-gay, I like to instill the Crying Game defense.  If you remember the Crying Game, the copper does not know – initially – that the woman of his desire is not what she seems.  Granted, when he finds out he throws up, but that is another matter entirely.  What I’d like to do is implement what I call the Lady-Boy Challenge.  (Kind of like the Pepsi Challenge, but with more Trannies…)  You take the pastor who suggests punching your kids if they seem gay and you get him liquored up.  You put the pastor in a room full of scantily clad women.  All of the woman are naked from the waist up.  It’s like Hooters, but without all that wing sauce.  From the waist down, the women are covered in white sheets.  The homophobic pastor gets to kiss and fondle whichever woman he likes.  When he is done, the sheets are whipped away from the nether regions of the Lady-Boys revealing nothing, but balls.  The commemorative t-shirt for the Lady-Boy Challenge contains the following slogan:


“My Sexuality Was Tested and All I Got Was Testes.”


I think it’s apropos and besides, it’s hard to hate once you “fail” yourself.


Serving the world’s pastors since the beginning of time…


On Gaybies and Alternative Families:
Sometimes I like to fight the ridiculous with the ridiculous.  It is simply just ridiculous, at this point, that anyone wants to stop two, capable, responsible, gay people from starting a family.  It seems the argument is almost always about the gaybies either “turning” gay or becoming fecked up somehow due to their parents gayness.  The implication is that a straightby is going to be just completely peachy, regardless, simply because their parents are straight.  Come on.  First of all, I find the whole, “my baby is better than your baby” argument to be a touch juvenile.  To me, it all sounds like:  “We’re hetero, so my baby is going to be better than your baby.”  Really, Junior, is that all you got?  What a tired argument.  Here are my retorts to your overachieving baby boast-ifications:


Bigoted Straightby parent:
My Child is on the Honor Roll.


Sweet Mother’s Response:
My Gayby Can See Through Glass.


Bigoted Straightby parent:
My Child is an All-Star Lacrosse Player.


Sweet Mother’s Response:
My Gayby Was Taught Basket Weaving by the Navajo.


Bigoted Straightby parent:
My Child Practices Abstinence Until Marriage and Wears a Promise Ring.


Sweet Mother’s Response:
My Gayby is a Neurosurgeon.  Maybe you should’ve concentrated less on the fecking and more on the reading.


Alright, that’s a long one, but I think it makes my point.


Okay, so after all of this, I still don’t know if I’ve “found” my voice.  I’m still not 100% sure  where my book is going, but I did write today.  That is something.  Now, “If I Could Just Get This A**hole to Turn Around…”


What about you all?  How do you answer questions surrounding your writer’s “voice”?



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Photo creds:  bumpersticker, thevoice, crying game


57 thoughts on “T-Shirt Slogans or Writer’s Voice?

  1. M, I struggle with this as well, The novel I’m writing has funny in it, instructor at Gotham and my fellow writers told me I had a comedic voice (not like you!), but then my character has some deep issues as well. And I love sarcasm, just not mean-spirited racist or bigoted blather and there’s a difference, as you know. Yours is a sweet spirit with hilarious sarcasm — a true voice. As far as your other musings above, I agree. There is no reason, no way that two people who love each other shouldn’t be able to share that with another human being (baby). Anyway, not to go on and on, your blog is great and the way you string things together to make a point is genius. Have a great weekend and here’s to finding your “voice,” although I think you’ve already done so. :).

    1. I don’t know, Brig, I think we ALL struggle with it, the voice thing. I’m thinking about it because I have to relay to my agent ‘where my book is going’ and i’m not sure if i totally know. i want to say, ‘…to funnyland’? but, i don’t know if that’s a significant answer. anyway, thank you. i really appreciate you saying that as it took me way too long to write this, this morning. so, i guess we both just simply need to soldier on. goddermn it. i wish there were an easier way. looolll. xox, sm

    2. “Have a great weekend and here’s to finding your “voice,” although I think you’ve already done so.”

      -Couldn’t agree more (well with that and everything else Brigitte said) 😉


      1. you guys are all so sweet, why do i sit over here fussing then? must be that even when you’ve ‘found’ it, it FEELS like you’ve NEVER truly found it… ay yay yay. but, thank you, kianys. it is much appreciated. hugs, sm

  2. “My Gayby is a Neurosurgeon. Maybe you should’ve concentrated less on the fecking and more on the reading.” this one is awesome…

    Sweet Mom your writer’s voice is so strong that many end up smiling & laughing, some get inspired and people like me simply feel at home…
    i dont think there is anyone who wouldn’t turn the chair around to applaud you… 🙂

    1. you had me at TURN THE CHAIR AROUND! lolllll. i guess this was a struggle this morning. and i have anxiety over my monday meeting. wah, wah. it will all be okay tho. thank you, lil miss, for the very kind pick me up. much love, mother

  3. On Sexuality and the Gay Movement: It seems wordpress has removed Gay and Homosexuality as topics. Go to read blogs, then click on gay, or type in gay, and you get this message:
    Nothing to read.
    Find your friends, browse our recommended blogs, or have a look at Freshly Pressed.

    1. that is so weird, as GAY and LESBIAN are one of my two biggest tags, that people search for and find me with. very very strange. i’ll take a look at it. need to read your blog, pinks. hopefully everything over there at the ‘lodge’ – that’s what i’m calling our new place – will be slowing down soon. love you, sm

      1. Good news…
        Wordpress says: “macmanx wrote:

        No censorship whatsoever. We’re tinkering with the Reader right now, so some things aren’t working all that well.
        For example, I just tried to follow the “salad” and “toyota” tags and go the same error, meanwhile “puppy” works just fine.”

  4. Two things on “voice.” One. Be authentic. Don’t be a pale copy of what you think other people want. Care about what you do, and love and respect yourself. Two. Focus. We all care about various things, but we don’t want a project of ours to become a “kitchen sink,” where we’re on about too many things. Know why a piece of art exists before you put it out there. Recap: Be yourself, and know how to edit. I think that’s all you can do. “Voice” is like personality. Other people see yours clearly, but it’s not easy to see your own. And anything manufactured is hideous. Sweet Mother, you do not need any advice in this area. You are doing just fine.

    1. this is such good commentary, i almost don’t know what to say. i’m really going to take it to heart. i think it’s spot on. i particularly love this: “know why a piece of art exists before you put it out there.” really, martha, this is just spectacular. thank you. xo, mother

  5. I think all really great artists have a distinct signature that, even if you didn’t see their name attached to their work, you’d know it was theirs. The best signatures are the ones you don’t work at, they just sort of happen. I think you have that going for you.

    1. j and t, thank you for that. i needed a boost, as i was struggling when i wrote this. i think you are right when you say, ‘the best signatures are the ones you don’t work at…’ whenever i try and force it, i can feel it, if that makes sense. seriously, you are the bomb…and your reggie is coming up very shortly. xoxo, sm

      1. I often find that the posts I put a ton of effort into (seriously, I think my career will “take off” when people read the post) are the ones that get the least views/comments. It’s the ones I write when I’m just being my crazy, demented, neurotic self that people love the most. That’s MY signature– mental instability with a few redeeming qualities thrown in.

        You are SOOOOOOOO money. I feel like big things are in store for you, and I’m happy to watch it all unfold 🙂

  6. I am going to throw something in here. Catchphrases stick because there is an authenticity behind them, and writers who write for themselves, tend to write authentic pieces that no one can deny the beauty of (I am an avid reader, and avid, I mean I devour it, and analyse it, but never want to emulate it). Your best pieces of writing are those that you observe people and life through, your sense of comedy is brilliant, you aren’t mean, you just tell it like it is. As for trying to find your voice, I think it is nerves that are coming through. Something I learned from a few incredibly successful people, your craft has to be seen at all angles, you control where everything goes. If you want to make money, you have to have a vision of how you will do that, and not be at the mercy of an agent. – sometime, i will actually tell you what my daytime job is,lol! If you are focusing purely on your voice, you will end up have a very insecure piece of writing, sounds silly, but in my field, if you sit and negotiate and are unsure of your voice, i.e your company position, it will come across as fragmented and weak. Take a deep breath and take a rest, the more you analyse just the writing the more you will be trying to find your “voice”. Your book will be great! xo

    1. travel lady, this is such a magnificent comment. i think you nailed it. i think it was nerves coming through and it was making me icky, if that makes sense. but, today, i’m back at it. i’m gonna nail this book. and i am going to write for me. that is the only time my work sings. i’m so with you – my strength lies in observing the everyday and then comedically writing about it. must be my comedy background, but there’s something else in there too. thank you for getting what i do. for getting that i’m funny, but never really mean. it’s a really satisfying thing to be ‘got’ when you create something. you know what i mean? honestly, thank you for this really thoughtful, really insightful comment. much love, mother

  7. I’m leaning toward my voice is what my characters tell me to say and how to say it…. It might sound flippant, but my two novels have two different voices. I think the key is honesty. Are we saying what we really mean, be it in fiction or nonfiction. And that may sound very different between our different works.

    And that’s about as insightful as I can be on a Saturday afternoon!

    1. it’s pretty insightful though! as i read it here on sunday…i’m with you on the voice tip, when it comes to fiction. when writing non-fiction, i think sometimes it’s a bit easier to come off contrived. maybe, i’m not sure. something i’m working through though. thanks for this great comment, jm. xo, sweet mother

  8. I have two words for you… Mark Ruffalo. He went to 600 auditions until he got a job. Yes, read that again…. 600!! When asked why?!? What kept him going… he simply said (not to me- on a UK chat show Graham Norton) because there was nothing else he could do. Believe. Be. Become. There’s a few inspirational buzz words for you…. ;o).

    1. omg, mixtape, this story is the bomb! i can not believe that’s true. and i love grahman norton and i’m going to try and search for that interview on youtube. i also have the ‘there’s nothing else i can do’ belief. so, that’s something…lol. much love, sm

      1. You can find the entire show on Youtube posted by GrahamNortonFan just search for Graham Norton 2012 Mark Ruffalo Nicki Minaj John Bishop
        Mark Ruffalo is (surprsingly?) funny!

  9. And as if all heterosexuals have proven to be such stellar parents. What, there’s something wrong with taking your 5-year old kid to a tanning booth or towing your grandkid’s toy car (with her in it) behind your car while you’re drunk? (These were both recent news stories in case you were too busy with your move to hear them.) Yes, these folks have done fine jobs indeed…

    1. oh, man, rubes, i did NOT hear those stories as i was in the throes of said move. but, as you have often stated with the news, i’m GLAD i did not hear them. honestly, what in the feck is wrong with people. totally, totally gross. ay yay yay. sigh. anyway, gonna treck on over to your blog. i miss it. xo, sm

  10. If I were on The Voice, I would so be a judge like Christina Aguilera. I would wear Barbie-size hats and dresses that showed an alarming amount of cleavage and spackle 10 gallons of blue eyeshadow on each eye. And then you would get up and sing and I would slam my red button after two seconds and swivel around. And I would grab a microphone and try to sing along and I would be working these melismatics and waving my hand around, but it would pale in comparison to your voice so I would just bopping up and down to distract the audience with my jiggling cleavage, and still no one would pay attention to me.

    My point?

    I love your voice.

    1. we are in a mutual admiration society, 7. as i also LOVE your voice. i think you’re a mini-genius. not that you are mini in any kind of way or that your talent is mini, the mini is more for when i really like things, i want to carry them around in my pocket and i’d like to carry you around in my pocket and have you comment on things. is that strange? i don’t know, don’t care, it’s just the way it is. looolll. much love, sm

  11. My answer is usually… “Well, my voice is silent, but my character’s on the other hand, well, that’s a whole different ball of wax.”

    I strongly feel like I channel my characters. I spend hours doing detailed character profiles including their psychology so they speak and act authentically.

    Now, when you’re asking about my blog, I tend to just say ..”Well, I hope I’m achieving raw and thoughtful with a touch of smartass, but you tell me. How am I speaking to you?”

    Love you, momma!


    1. you are 100% raw and thoughtful with a touch of smartass. maybe we have that in common? lol. it’s probably why i like you so much. fussing over voice because i have to talk about my book today, but all will work out. much love and thanks for this awesome comment, gills. xoxo, sm

  12. As a trained actor (who works as a nanny) and a newly aspiring writer, I completely understand wanting to get paid for your art. Who gets to deem some jobs worth more than others? Involving kids in the arts is AMAZING for their self-esteem, communication skills, work ethic, etc. Also, I love that you are educated people on the gay movement and sexuality and gaybies. And you’re doing it all with humor which kicks ass, plus you’re a woman. Even better!

    1. stephanie, if only the world felt as you do! however, i do think (in particular as women) that in this country we need to demand to get paid for our art in one way or another, people want to see it see it as charity work the minute it’s creative and that’s just bs. soooooo, i’m pushing for that these days. thank you for the wonderful comment. xoxo, sm

  13. I think any humor blogger not named Jenny Lawson struggles with this as we all want to live the life of working 2 hours a day and making a suitcases full of cash. I’ve openly said that many times on my blog.

    I feel like I try to appeal to a broad range of people, which I probably shouldn’t do because I feel like different people only like certain things I write. Some people like the sarcastic cartoons I make, others like my self-deprecating humor, and I think there’s one guy that thinks I’m gay because I always seem to get weird homosexual search terms right around the same time each day.

    On one of the sites I regularly guest post on, one commenter thought I would be awesome at copywriting because of my clever blog titles and snarky writing. It’s something I’m looking into.

    And that was probably the most straight-laced, boring comment I have ever left on your site – and I even had 3 margaritas tonight so I SHOULD be in rare form. Though, I am burning the midnight oil trying to finalize illustrations for my next post – The Life of Extreme Right-Wing Julia.

  14. I turned around as well Mum and I’m still looking right at you. Your ‘voice’ is who you are. It doesn’t need to be shoehorned into a category. Let ‘er rip!

  15. I like your voice, funny-but no nonsense in getting the message across.I turned around too, but I know what you mean by trying to find your voice. I think others sometimes recognize our voice before we do.

  16. Frankly, I am still getting over being impressed that you are able to post consistently funny, interesting things once a day here. As a somewhat new reader, I’m still getting caught up, but I definitely think you’ve established your voice – and it is good (as, um, God would say?). I also think you’re doing just what you need to be doing – getting it out there. One thing I’ve learned from working in PR in NYC is that, as an earlier commenter mentioned with the M. Ruffalo reference, it’s all about effort. Nobody gets noticed without failing and trying endlessly. And if they do, they probably had an unfair advantage anyway and have to live with knowing they are never quite as good as the people who had to do it all themselves. Anyway, just wanted to post a note of encouragement – and awe – at your prolific (and funny) blogness. Keep it up – you will reach further. Hell, you already have a mini-community here. Next stop, David Sedaris-esque book level 1. Or at least that’s what I’m picturing.

  17. I write my personal blog and a newspaper column. The voice for the blog is much easier as it’s about my life, my thoughts and I am the editor so I can use whatever nasty language I deem appropriate. I don’t, however, use the really bad words ’cause my mother’s 80-year-old cousin reads my blog.

    The newspaper column is a little more difficult. I’m a progressive in a very conservative town. I find myself holding back and haven’t found a comfortable place to be in that writing. Getting there, but I don’t want my point to be lost in a bunch of flames. I’d rather try to reach the conservatives and make them think than piss them off and elicit a knee-jerk reaction.

    Fiction? I can’t get past the “I write a killer first chapter” phase. Voice? Maybe once I find a plot I can find a voice.

  18. well i think you are doing a great job. you are speaking from your heart, and this is the best place to start. everything else shall fall into place

  19. I think you have a wonderful voice, SM. It comes through loud and clear in all of your posts. It’s distinctive and it’s funny and poignant and it’s all you. You have great phrasing that’s worthy of t-shirt slogans, but that’s not all it is. The people who read your blog know this. There’s a reason you have a bazillion followers.

    And anyone who doesn’t turn around just doesn’t get it and you probably wouldn’t benefit from their following you anyway.

  20. I don’t think you have to worry about your voice, you come through so well. The rest? People will continue to be ijits, stupid is a birthright but ignorance is a choice. All any of us can do is one ijit at a time hope to overcome ignorance.

  21. Oh, SM! You can’t know it but you can be it, as one of my teachers said at the beginning of a daunting body of study. And you ARE. You have a wonderful voice! It’s REAL. The catchphrases will arrive if and when needed, never fear. Besides, new paradigm time. Stay in the damn chair, A-hat. Momentum builds and the chairs turn around on their own. Doing creative work and getting paid for it is quite the endeavor. But as Dolly Parton said, find out who you are and do that. There really isn’t any other way. If you’re doing something you truly want to do and you are happy? That’s what matters. Carry on. It always helps me get through my day reading you!

  22. Buzz Words bother me as much as Catch Phraises do. I’ve always said that is why I didn’t do well at my interviews with school districts after graduating with a teaching degree. Buzzwords are a crutch that narrow down a concept to the point of uselessness. But boy did all those school districts love them to death.

  23. I am right there with you on the creative life thing! I try to celebrate the little victories that come along (like that I am volunteering with some theater companies) and try not to get depressive or suicidal (why am I not getting paid to work with said theater companies). Some days that is much easier than others though!

  24. You definitely have a voice, a good fecking voice, and definitely have no need to subject yourself to some asshole in a chair, or jiggling cleavage (see above).

    As to the pastor who claimed to be kidding, putting him in a room with Crying Game copies is too good for him. Put him in a room full of goats.

    But seriously, I so envy you because you are actually doing more than whining about writing (like me), you’re writing. That’s a good thing.

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