When it comes to musical tastes, some of us like jazz, some of us like country and some of us like heavy metal. We can easily tell the difference in the voice of each genre—the smooth jazz voice compared to the country twang and the screaming rock. We can also identify a particular singer’s voice as soon as we hear it, like Elvis and Cher, even when they cross over into other genres. The same thing applies to our writer’s voice. It has a style as the narrator, and quite often characters also have a distinct voice.
Here are some pointers to finding and developing your voice.
Whether we like it or not, your personality shines through your writing. So, in order to understand your voice, you first need to understand yourself. Pull out a journal and write down the answers to these self-exploration questions:
- What are three ways to describe my personality?
- What are my favourite artistic influences such as books, blogs or magazines, music, movies, visual art?
- What are my top three core values and how do they show up in my everyday life?
- What makes me laugh?
- What breaks my heart?
Explore your writing
It can be difficult to isolate our writing voice if we are contorting ourselves to fit an expected style of writing, say for a blog or an essay directed at a specific audience like your University professor. When you sit down with a journal and only write for yourself with no end goal in mind, your own voice will come forward. Write from the heart without lifting your pen and see what emerges. Write about whatever comes to mind, such as an event or describing a person. Do this for several pieces of writing then notice the trend. Read it out loud to yourself and see what comes up in terms of theme, energy and tone. Is it poignant, witty, or sarcastic? Is your voice descriptive or to the point? Do you have an affinity for metaphor and simile?
Stay in the Flow
When we over-edit our writing voice can become stilted and stale. Playing off the dangers of having our inner critic awakened by the self-editing loop, the other danger of constantly stopping our creative flow is that we lose the edge that makes our writing our own. If you can write past the spelling and grammar mistakes, and not worry about finding that one perfect word, the flow of your writing pulls forward your unique voice and keeps it from being over-processed.
Let me know what comes up for you as you go forth and own your unique writing voice. I’d love to hear what you found.
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