"Where does a writer's 'voice' come from?"
Flaws. Imperfections. Blemishes. This is the stuff that makes us individuals, that makes us lovable, and that gives writers their unique perspective on the world. A writer's vantage point is precisely where her voice emanates. What makes a writer is someone who recognizes their voice and their particular turn of mind come from the same immeasurable place. Every writer has a voice. Some voices are more toned than others.
A writer's voice is a compilation of language, personal history, opinions, and truth as the writer sees it. Everybody has a literary voice but hearing it and being brave enough to write it down for others to see is something else. A writer's voice is the truest expression of what we believe or want to believe is fundamental to the existence of our species.
Voice is what grabs an editor or a reader and makes them follow along until the story is done. Voice is what draws a reader so deep into a piece that they begin to identify with the events and attach their own experiences to the writing.
If everyone has a voice, why is it one of the most difficult and esoteric fragments of the writing process? What do you do if an editor says, "You need to develop your voice more," or "Your voice didn't grab me enough to make me interested?"
Writing is like a muscle. It has to be flexed, exercised, and nourished every day. Not just the five thirty-minute exercise sessions a week called for by the surgeon general for your sexy abs, but the writing muscle needs to be put through some kind of paces seven days a week. The easiest way to accomplish this is by keeping a journal. It does not require a specific routine or set of exercises. In fact, the more gibberish you write the more clear things will become as you work daily in your journal to develop the unique way you want to write. But you must write something every day.
Journal writing is the place to practice and get things right or wrong or dumb or straight or crooked or just listed. The writer's journal is a no-boundaries play ground where you can experiment, lie, twist, copy, sort, and get right your special way of turning a sentence or laying words down in a certain order that are the tell-tale signs of your unique writer's voice. The more practice you make in your journal, the more your "real writing" begins to show signs of a voice that is distinctly yours. No one has to know that you practiced day after day, year after year in a journal to finally identify your true voice. In fact, when (not if,) but when you go back and reread your journal burn the parts you don't want shared if they bother you. But respect that your journal is the proving ground for what works and what makes your voice special. Type, write by hand, paint, use stickers, whatever it takes to open yourself to the real you and how you want to be heard. This journal practice will gently slide into your writing and someday an editor will send you a letter that says, "I love your voice."
What I'm Reading Right Now: "When Knowing Becomes Love, Meditation As Contemplative Inquiry" by Arthur Zajonc.
What Are You Reading?
Be well, write well,