Have You Lost Your Voice?
Lost my voice? I’m not sure I ever found it in the first place.
We hear about finding one’s voice all the time (in the land of writers, that is), but just what does that mean?
Here are a couple of definitions: Writer’s voice is the literary term used to describe the individual writing style of an author. Voice was generally considered to be a combination of a writer’s use of syntax, diction, punctuation, character development, dialogue, etc., within a given body of text (or across several works).
Hmm. That helped. It helped me, at least. Defining Writer’s Voice has been—for me—like trying to hit a moving target while blindfolded.
I guess the problem with defining a writer’s voice stems from the same kind of thinking that makes computer programmers and consultants such mysterious creatures. Jargon. We tend to use jargon to set ourselves apart from others, and to make what we do appear more valuable. (Sorry about that. Long-time pet peeve.)
When it comes down to it, your voice is your style. Plain and simple.
But, Mr. Blogger! Where do we get our style? I don’t get it.
Really? OK, now I’m impressed. See, admitting that you’re confused is the first step in understanding. Nice job.
In posts past I’ve spoken of writing a letter late at night in a train car going north from Bangkok to Lop Buri in Thailand. I had been reading Doyle and the combination of a polished wood car, illuminated by gas light, windows open and the aromas of a foreign land wafting in as we jostled along the old and poorly maintained track, came together to change my “voice” just then. It was a magical experience, one that I hope to never forget.
Our voice comes from who we are, how we were educated, what we read, what we think about, and how we relate to our world. Oh, and unless we’ve decided to cast ourselves in plaster—or carbonite—much like the target mentioned above, it is a moving, evolving thing.
To be fair, most writers find a voice, nail it down, and stay with it. Prolific—and well-paid—writers like the late Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. and Nora Roberts are excellent examples (and if you don’t see how they can be connected, DO look again), found a powerful and successful voice and stayed with it.
The best thing about being a new writer is you don’t have to settle on a particular voice—not yet, at least—you can play, you can experiment, you can grow.
If I were your writing teacher, I would say this: do not push yourself into a particular “voice” too early. Do not allow yourself to become staid until you’ve taken the time to try on as many voices as you can. Each voice is like a new coat. Try it on. If it doesn’t fit, fine. The trick is to not throw it away, for it may come back into style one day.