FINDING your “writing voice” is a hot topic among those who are learning the writing craft (and what writer is not always learning his or her craft?). I even teach an online class about it (more about that later). Still, writing voice is a controversial topic, because there are so many varying and strong opinions about it. We can’t even agree on a common definition, as interwoven as it is with the concepts of tone and style.
Lain Broome makes some good points in his recent post, “Start Searching if you want to find your writing voice.” Lain comes at the topic from the point of view that your writing voice is primarily something that you design; it is a creation “both on and with purpose.” And I agree with him, to a point. But I also think that our voice is something that already exists within us, is an inherent part of who we are, and that must simply be recognized. Lain agrees with me, to a point.
I believe that your “true” writing voice — that which is unique to you as an individual — is like your singing voice; it takes a lot of practice and training to develop tone, style, and techniques that together comprise a person’s voice. Yet what is unique about your singing voice is dependent, to some degree, on physical qualities, such as the shape of your vocal chords, natural abilities, as well as upbringing that may affect accent, etc.
Writing voice, similarly, takes a lot of practice and training to develop. Yet, underneath, is an authentic expression that is a result of biology and life experiences. For example, we each have unique (and not so unique) metaphors that form a lens through which we perceive life. Revealing, understanding, and developing techniques to express your own, authentic and personal lens onto the world is part of developing your writing voice. That said, it’s entirely possible that, just as we have different aspects to our personalities, we may have more than one voice with which to write.
Lain and I agree that there is no easy way out. You must look for your voice in order to find it, and you must make conscious choices about how you want your voice to develop and work on it. And Lain offers an excellent writing exercise to get started (or spend some time reconsidering) your search, along with some links for more reading on the subject.
If you’d like to have some guidance along the way, my two-part course, Finding Your Writing Voice, may be timely. You can learn in the context of an online class, get personalized, one-on-one instruction, or, if you prefer to learn on your own, you can just get the study guide. Stop by and check it out.
Writing — even journal writing — is hard, gut-wrenching, and deeply satisfying work. Go for it!
“If your heart is beating fast and your palms are sweating and your mouth is dry, you’re writing from the part of yourself that has something to say that will be worth hearing.” ~ Holly Lisle, author