Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Write on Wednesday-Finding Your Voice

Writers often talk about "finding their voice," that unique way of expressing themselves that identifies them as an individual. Whether it's the way you construct a sentence, the point of view you favor, a persistent use of imagery, every writer is looking for that special something that makes their writing stand out.

In The Right to Write, Julia Cameron tells us to stop looking. "Your voice is already there," she says. "Don't focus on your "writer's voice" to the exclusion of having something to say. If you enter into what you want to express, you will intuitively arrive at ways to express it."

Apparently, the writer's voice is like the singer's voice. Before I started working with singers, I had the mistaken impression that you were either born with a singing voice or you weren't. How wrong I was! Everyone can be taught the craft of singing. Of course, some people are gifted with a more beautiful voice than others, but everyone has a singing voice inside them. By following a tried and true method of instruction, you can learn to make that singing voice work. Yet every voice will carry with it unique qualities that cannot (and should not!) be changed. Timbre, tone quality, and range, are all unique to each person's instrument.

So it is with each writer. Even in the writing I do for my day job, which is completely technical and quite formulaic, my boss tells me she can "immediately" discern which of the three writers in my department have written a particular piece. We each have our distinct way of putting words together that identifies us one from the other.

Yes, I can study the techniques and craft of writing, I can use Stunk and White's Elements of Style as my "bible," I can do writing exercises and revisions galore, and all of this will improve my ability to write. None of it will essentially change the writing voice that I was born with - it's as much a part of me as my hair color (although that's certainly changable!) Even though it's fun to experiment with diffent shades, the "true color" is still there underneath.

"Let the song do the singing," Cameron tells us. Writing is about passing along a message, something that moves us about a person, a place, a circumstance, a feeling. Those things that speak to our hearts are the stories we must concentrate on telling in our own unique voices.

So, how about you? Are you comfortable with your writer's voice?


Postscript: If you haven't read Right to Write, I highly recommend it. For me, it's the best of all Cameron's books, because it includes so many of her ideas in a very succinct format, with great writing exercises as well.

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10 Comments:

Blogger Ally Bean said...

Writing is about passing along a message.

I think that is so true and that so many people don't get that. Maybe because I came from a family with lots of Irish blood, I tell stories and talk without any difficulty. The Blarney stone, 'ya know? And I think because of my great education in liberal arts I can write to convey a message quite easily.

So, in answer to your question, yes I am very comfortable with my writer's voice. But that won't stop me from getting a copy of The Right To Write and learning how to communicate better. I like to learn.

5/16/2007  
Blogger Star said...

This is really an interesting post, Becca. Although I do less proofreading at work now than in past years, I suspect that experience has ingrained habits that may be affecting my current writing.

As you related about your workplace, I am always able to tell who has written something that shows up in my in-basket. Over the years I have tried to make sure that when I'm finished reworking something for a coworker that it is correct in grammar, punctuation and clarity without making it sound like I wrote the piece. It sort of makes me wonder if I have a style of my own any more.

Surely I do; it is the "me" that shows up in my journal. But the casual thoughts and feelings expressed in a journal do not necessarily translate to other pieces of writing. Hmmmmmm.

Food for thought. Thanks!

5/16/2007  
Blogger written voize said...

Good piece... I really grabbed hold to this blog entry! I must check out the book you mentioned, The Right to Write.

I write about the things I'm most passionate about, life beyond the surface of our emotions, that is where I found my voice. A place that really touchs the soul of one's hidden emotions (the good, the bad, and even the ugly).

5/16/2007  
Blogger paris parfait said...

Becca, I'm so behind in reading your blog - the last few days have gotten away from me. And you're absolutely right about each writer having a unique voice. xo

5/16/2007  
Blogger Katie McKenna said...

What an interesting post! Thank you!

5/16/2007  
Blogger Tori said...

Thanks for the book suggestion Becca. My library has it, so I can't wait to get it.
I am comfortable with what my writing voice has to say, but I am often frustrated with my command of grammer. I wish I had a better handle on it all. I am starting to check out Grammer Girl http://grammar.qdnow.com/
for tips.
Thoughtful post Becca!

5/16/2007  
Blogger Shaz said...

I am not a learned writer, I wish I was the beauty in words that get conveyed by a lot of the posts I read are amazing. I dont have a huge vocabulary nor am I very good at puntuation. I am learning by reading and I might consider broadening my horizons that book may be a good place to start. Thanks Becca x

5/16/2007  
Blogger deirdre said...

I didn't begin to hear my writer's voice until a few months into blogging. Having my words stare back at me so regularly helped me hear it.

There's so much about writing to learn, so many nuances that fascinate and keep me growing. Thank you for these Wednesday posts, they keep me thinking.

5/17/2007  
Blogger Bohemian Mom said...

I'm almost certain I have this book somewhere.
Having just finished Cameron's Finding Water...I've been thinking about my next step.
Thanks for this post!

5/17/2007  
Blogger Mardougrrl said...

I really love this post, because this is something I have been thinking a lot about lately. My blog writing feels like my true voice, but whenever I start to work on my novel draft again, inevitably, I feel myself rejecting that writing as "not novel-like enough." Then, of course, I just get silent and before long, I creak to a complete halt (which is where I am now).

And I LOVE The Right to Write...that and the AW are my two favorites from her.

I need to think about this one some more. Thanks for the food for thought (as always!)

5/18/2007  

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