Writing voice is often a concept that I’ve heard writers express a struggle to find. The biggest misconception in my humble opinion is that it’s something that can be found.
Developed? Yes. Honed? Absolutely. I hate to break it to you, but your voice is already there. It comes from within. It encompasses all of who you are and extends itself to the page. Just as much as meeting you should show me certain things about your personality, you’re writing should do the same.
Sometimes we confuse writing style for voice. Sure you may be an essay writer, or have a straightforward tone or be conversational. But that doesn’t necessarily make up your voice. It’s the words you choose. It’s the way that you say things. It’s influenced by who you are, what you’ve done, the things you’ve experienced and they reveal themselves through the way that you put sentences and paragraphs together.
Call off the search for your writing voice and simply begin to listen to yourself. This is where the practice comes in. Part of the reason I feel comfortable with my writing voice is that I write, a lot. The discipline of writing in a journal every day is not just so I can buy new ones. Although, I do enjoy that as well. The point is that it is practice without even realizing it, of hearing myself through words. This is why I encourage every writer that I encounter to journal.
I feel like we grow into our writing voice the same way that we grow into our own personalities. Sure, in the beginning, you just copy everything your parents do and say. But as your frontal lobe continues to develop, a personality all your own starts to solidify as well. In that same way, many of us want to write like our favorite writers. But how can we do that when we have not experienced what they have experienced or seen the things they’ve seen? Our voice is unique to us.
So I want to encourage you if you feel like you have yet to discover your voice that it is indeed already there. You may need to tap into it a bit more. Analyze it, figure out ways you want to spruce it up a bit, but it’s there waiting to be cultivated.
Developing your voice begins with knowing a little about who you are. I wrote about this in a blog post before in regard to confidence. That if you’re not a confident person, how can you be confident in your writing? Well, same thing here for voice. If you haven’t spent time thinking about who you are as a person, how can you be sure that is being reflected in your work?
Let’s take me for the example. I am silly. I love to laugh. I’m super ambitious. Driven. Sometimes a bit no non-sense when it comes to responsibilities. I am motivated, a lover of Christ, a romantic. I’m married, I am passionate about writing. I LOVE to read. I can be sarcastic. I love pop culture.
If you’ve ever read anything I’ve written, do these things come across? I believe so. All these things influence my voice. The fact that I’m from Philadelphia even introduces specific vernacular to my writing like the word jawn. You may see me throw that around here and there. It’s important to think of all these things when we think about our writing and how who we are shapes our voice. So here are a few exercises or things to consider in regard to voice.
1. Who are you? What are you like? What are some adjectives you would use to describe yourself?
2. What are some of your cultural influences? Where did you grow up? What traditions did your family have?
3. What do you love to read? What are you drawn to? What is it about that work that makes it resonate so deeply with you?
4. Journaling. I have even created free prompts in my Writers Write WLD workbook. Start listening to yourself through your journaling. It’s about more than expressing your frustration with the day’s events. There are themes there. Your voice is there. Pay attention to it.
5. Get a second opinion. Ask someone, what is my writing like? When you read it, what do you hear in my voice?