How do you find your true voice when you write? I am so often asked this. It is hard to find what you genuinely feel is YOU. Our brains are so full of all the authors we have read, all the poems and stories. They are full of what 'good' writing is. I think of your writing voice as a song that you have to discover by removing all the other voices. The song is ancient. But how do you find YOURS? by Sarah Bullen
Many tribal people believe that every person has a particular song that connects them to other realms. In Africa many believe that each song has a very particular beat on the drum and that it calls you to dance. We believe that when the song and the drum and the dance are in harmony it connects you to your soul, your ancestors / God or spirit.
All of these songs carry forward all the stories and all the pain and love of the world. The song is what connects you to this timeless wave – it brings forward all the stories of love and loss, of heroes and adventures.
It is a song that comes from the older world and time long ago where rhythms were set at night under the stars and where bare feet beat out the ageless dances. Have you every heard these songs that evoke some ancient memory? They may be Irish or Greek or Indian – but they speak to you of old memories and love.
Now all of these songs are good ones. But how do you find YOUR song?
Equally, in writing, we each have a song.
This song is our writing voice. The way we write things, or tell a story. It is the particularly unique quality, tone and timbre we bring to a story.
You bring all of who you are to your writing.
In writing our song is made up of how we chose our words, our characters and our stories. It takes a long time to find your true writing voice, as it takes tribes a long time to find each person’s life song.
First you have to write in all the voices you think you should write it. You will try and be intelligent, sardonic, profound, funny, academic, and provocative. You tell a story you think others will love. You mimic other writers and other stories. This is the process of learning
When I first started writing I desperately wanted to sound like a magic realist. Know them? They have magical words that weave a story of poetry and song. I failed dismally. What came out was totally different. It was modern, funny and .... sort of simple really.
That is what I have found of most writers. If you keep going all the ideas may drop away. And what will be left is your real voice.
Most often it will be far simpler, far cleaner and less complicated than you expected. Less clever. More real. More readable. Most often it comes out when we write about what we care about, or something we have an emotional stake in.
The journey of writing will lead you to find your true writing voice. You cannot find it by thinking about it, or by asking your old English teacher, or mimicking sassy magazine copy. No, you find it by just writing.
Day after day. Poems or song or stories or blogs or diary entries. Just writing.
Slowly all the constructs of language will drop away onto the pages and what you will be left with is your writing voice. Your song.
Sarah Bullen is a writing coach, agent and book editor. She is a structure fanatic and book whisperer and is here to help.