Today we look at a concept often overlooked in the writing community: voice. Truthfully, I’m not sure why so many writers go through their careers with no concept or awareness of their voice: perhaps the idea of a normally audible sound being present in a silent work is to blame, or maybe it’s something to do with the impatience of our current generations, but more often than not, if a writer is asked to speak on their written voice, the answer is confused at best and, at worst, utterly lacking. Shall we attempt to clear up that confusion a little?
What is Voice?
Strange as it is, every single successful writer the world over can be “heard” through their works. Most often, writers who are aware of their voice have a few things in common: the direction of their writing is clear and engaging, the transitions between different parts of their work are smooth and natural, and their ability to capture feeling and the ever-elusive “moment” are unmatched. In short, successful writers of both prose and artistic writing are masters of language in all of its facets, and they have learned to utilize those rules in a manner completely unique to themselves.
When others read your writing, do they hear you speaking as if you were telling them a story? Can your work be identified as your work regardless of whether or not your name is printed with it? When you write, do you struggle to turn your thoughts into words, or do your thoughts essentially write themselves? These are all important questions when considering your voice, but how do we get to the point where we answer all of them, “Yes?”
Patience, my Friend
Every writer is different, and while some are fortunate enough to be naturally gifted with writing, the vast majority are not. For those of us who aren’t child prodigies, practicing patience is the best option in regards to finding our individual voices. Without patience in any walk of life, frustration takes over and leads to anger, bitterness, and resentment, so don’t rush yourself! Life is short when looking at the big picture, but zooming in, arguably we each have several decades worth of life to find and master our voices.
Immerse yourself in the written word: read, write, critique, journal, doodle, and let yourself become obsessed with the construction of language. The rules of grammar should be second nature to you, and not just the basics but all of them: if you can’t explain a rule to someone else, then you haven’t conquered the craft. Master your vocabulary, and endeavor to add to your repertoire every day, because the more words you have at your disposal, the more efficiently and effectively you’ll be at turning thought into ink. The more you can surround yourself with language and writing, the better you’ll be at conveying exactly what you want to communicate.
Mastery = Comfort
Mastery can be a very intimidating word, and indeed, many of the world’s most successful and renowned writers would admit, that they haven’t mastered the written word either. If that’s the case for you, and you find that mastery is too big a concept to achieve, try instead to think of it as a level of comfort. Inevitably, the more you write and spend time with words and grammar, punctuation and different writing styles, the more you will become increasingly comfortable with them. Where once you struggled to pen the simplest and most apparent of emotions and thoughts, eventually they will flow naturally from mind to paper without much need for critical forethought.
Here again, though, patience is the only way to find that comfort, and I know: patience is not something our society values much anymore. Instant gratification has replaced time-honored reward, and long suffering has all but lost out to the “now mentality.” Unless you’ve been blessed with a natural affinity for writing and its concepts, though, diligence, perseverance, and yes, patience are the only way to identify your voice in your writing. Truth be told, the day may come when your voice is recognized by everyone around you, and you’ll still be working toward finding it yourself. When that day comes, though (and perhaps for the first time ever), you’ll truly understand the adage, “Patience is a virtue.”
Samuel Blake ǀ @herheart_oncraft
Her Heart Poetry’s ON CRAFT area will be evolving over the coming months. Samuel’s goal is to both educate and inspire readers and writers of all calibres. ON CRAFT articles are published to teach about a different facet of creative writing.