Is ‘Finding Your Voice’ as a Writer Just Plain Laughable?

    Have you found your voice yet?

    I hope not!

    Because this whole idea of ‘finding’ your voice is pure, well …cow splatter!

    Why?

    Because you and I never lost it in the first place!

    Our writing voice is innate.

    What do you think?

    Are we on the same page here?

    If so, you’ll understand that I’m not going to give you ‘10 Exercises to Help You Find Your Voice.

    YIKES!

    There’s so much finding your voice noise out there that it gets confusing and you start to believe that, next to oxygen, finding the right voice is the singular most vital key to your existence. – Gary Korisko

    I like that quote. A lot.

    Sometimes, ‘finding your voice’ is described like an excavation project:

    Your writing voice might be hiding — behind grief, cliché, convention and clutter, which all must be cleared before we can reach it. – Joanne Fedler.

    There you go. Better book your first therapy session tomorrow – and plan to keep going for the next ten years until you finally unearth your ‘writing voice’…

    ‘Finding your writing voice’ is like someone teaching you to exhale after you inhale. [Tweet this]

    Yes, make sure you don’t follow an in-breath with another in-breath. Remember, you must exhale in-between!

    Ridiculous, isn’t it …

    If you ask me, I think that all this talk of ‘finding your voice’ is drivel. Pure drivel.

    And yet there is something we need to consider  … and it has impact on how we write.

    See, we all have a signature style.

    We express our character structure in words and actions all the time (without being aware of it).

    Here’s an example (and a minor confession…)

    When I’m excited about a new idea – which happens a lot – I tend to tell sweeping stories and use animated gestures to make my points.

    Just recently, I noticed that my friends quietly move the glasses on the dining table out of my reach at certain moments in our conversations. Why? Because they know I tend to sweep drinks off the table when I’m in the grip of excitement.

    That’s my signature style. What’s yours?

    Our signature style arises from the patterns that determine our character.

    What’s YOUR character pattern?

    Take a look at the list below. Can you recognize yourself in some of these character descriptions?

    Are you …

    • an introspective Idealist,
    • an idealistic Reformer,
    • a caring Helper,
    • a success-oriented Achiever,
    • a sensitive Individualist,
    • an intense Investigator,
    • a security-oriented Loyalist,
    • a spontaneous Enthusiast,
    • a powerful Challenger,
    • a visionary Enabler,
    • or a reassuring Peacemaker?

    It can be challenging to pinpoint your own personality. But we can often see quite clearly what doesn’t fit.

    For example, I’m definitely not an introspective Idealist, an idealistic Reformer, or a security-oriented Loyalist.

    As to writing style…

    Your writing style is naturally aligned to your character pattern. [Tweet this]

    More about that in a moment.

    What about you? Which of the personality structures above strike a chord?

    But how does this relate to ‘finding your voice?’

     

    Why losing yourself is more important than finding yourself

     

    Let’s switch from writing to dancing for a moment.

    Have you ever been at a party or a rave where you forgot yourself and just danced freely, completely immersed in the music?

    It’s a wonderful feeling, isn’t it?

    It’s the opposite of dancing self-consciously, wondering what others are thinking about you.

    When you dance freely, the way you dance expresses exactly who you are –  but this only happens if you lose yourself in the act of dancing.

    The moment you think about what you’re doing, you fall out of your natural signature style and become self-conscious. And your dancing becomes awkward.

    The process of writing is similar.

    Our natural writing voice is an expression of who we are.

    The more we write, the more our natural writing voice appears. [Tweet this]

    The only way you can upset (and even destroy) this progress is if you try to ‘find your voice.’ Because then you become self-conscious, and your writing becomes forced and awkward.

    What do you think? Is ‘finding your voice’ as a writer a useful idea, or is it just plain laughable?

    Let’s have a friendly discussion in the comments.

    About the author

      Mary Jaksch

      Mary Jaksch is best known for her exceptional training for writers at WritetoDone.com. Grab a copy of her free report, How to Create an Irresistible Lead Magnet in Less Than 5 Hours. In her “spare” time, Mary’s also the brains behind AlistBlogging.net. and GoodlifeZEN.com, a Zen Master, a mother, and a 5th Degree Black Belt.

    • Peter Blake says:

      The trouble with these kind of posts is that they tell us something is useless, in this case finding our voice, only to tell us something equally as useless, in this case finding our signature Style.

    • Great post, Mary. I never gave any thought to finding my voice. But in retrospect I can see that as I have gotten more confident from three years of weekly posting, I have let more of myself show through and become more human. I’m even willing to expose my weaknesses and flaws. So that is actually closer to finding myself, which in turn reflects “my voice.” Thank you.

      • Hey Molly – great to see you here. I’ve read some of your posts and you have a beautiful, and quite distinctive voice. I love the way you describe how it slowly came into focus quite naturally!

    • “digital fiddling” Tha’ts an interesting metaphor for goofing off online. Guess maybe I should put down my fiddle and listen to how the rest of the orchestra is playing. I’ll figure it out. Thankxczs.

      • Reading your comment, I immediately had three brainflashes for future posts… that’s a sign of a really good comment. Thanks, Lamont 🙂

        • Mary,
          Three! Maybe I shouldn’t comment so often. Don’t want you to have too many “brain flashes.” You never know how many flashes a brain can stand. I’m sure your brain can stand the heat :}

          Better put my fiddle down and get back to work.

    • Finally, Mary! Someone who expressed my views on this whole “finding my voice” business. I’ll admit this one drove me nuts for awhile. Writing felt like dodging land mines. Am I being true to myself? Did I portray that scene authentically? It’s a recipe for hesitation and self doubt. There’s enough pressure to make writing a consistent part of one’s life as it is. No need to complicate things by worrying about your voice. Get your fingers tapping on your keyboard as much as you can; the rest will sort itself out! – Corey

      • Ha – I love your comment, Corey! We seem to be singing from the same hymnbook 🙂

    • Janette says:

      I think that finding your own voice is more about unlearning all those helpful ideas and tips someone taught us along the way to conform to strict writing styles. Personally, my voice in writing, singing and just conversation is the voice I always heard inside my head, but didn’t always share. Part of my maturation as a writer, singer, or person has seemed to me to be about learning to share what is there inside … and over the years hopefully my voice has also deepened and picked up interesting nuances as well, but the basic voice is just me.

      • Oh I love your idea of ‘unlearning’, Janette. I too had to release myself from ‘strict writing styles’ – but now, writing is so much more fun, don’t you agree?

    • Alison says:

      Great post Mary! The Troublemaker hat works for you! I am not a fiction writer so I can only share my experiences writing nonfiction.

      My feeling is that it is has not been so much about “finding” my voice as it has been about having the courage to show and express it. I think so many of us have had our voice trained out of us. So perhaps then it is more about taking small steps to show ourselves and build confidence in expressing who we really are. So your dancing analogy was perfect!

      Thanks for a thought-provoking post!

      • Yes, there’s something about courage for sure, Alison. When I first started blogging, I wanted ‘to be someone’, you know? I wanted to project something. Maybe wisdom or something like that.

        It didn’t work. I recently read my very first post on Goodlife Zen from years ago – and they were awfully stiff and rather pompous.

        I remember a day in my blogging career when I suddenly thought, ‘It’s time for the real Mary to stand up!’

        The thing is, I’m quite quirky and lively in real life – and it’s only now in the last year or so that that’s really coming out in my writing.

        It takes time to ditch all the ‘shoulds’ and the ‘what ifs’ 🙂

    • Mark Lilly says:

      This was a great article for me to come across because I’ve gone back and forth on what my “writing voice” should sounds like. Finally, I realized that it all works out best when I just write the way I would speak to a friend and let my personality show naturally. Thanks, Mary!

      • Thanks for your comment, Mark. Going back and forth on what your ‘writing voice’ should sound like can really undermine your confidence, don’t you agree?

    • Hi Mary,

      Fascinating read and I dig it too. We are our voice. Never left us. In some, aka most, the voice is buried below layers of limiting beliefs. Take this post. Few would be bold enough to write it. But you wrote it. Because when you write from your heart – aka, write with your voice – the truth will out…..and you’ll not think twice about it.

      Write to write how you’re meant to write. I took that advice shared above to the bank. I write some 3,000 to 6,000 words daily between my blog post for the week, my articles for clients and through my comments.

      If I’m writing eBooks – 10 in 4 months – I go above 6K a day. I write how I write by writing a bunch. Anyone can establish their writing voice by peeling off limiting beliefs, and writing religiously accelerates the healing practice. Keep on writing. Your voice will be heard loud and clear, and you won’t even think about writing in your voice. It’ll just happen through writing repetition.

      Love it Mary.

      Ryan

      • Yes, you nailed it, Ryan: “We are our voice.”

        I’m impressed by your output. 3,000 to 6,000 a day? Amazing.

    • Not sure I need to find _my_ voice… maybe James Patterson’s? (joking)

      I agree with you Mary… I already have a voice, thank you very much. I’m more interested in finding the folks that like to hear me talk 🙂

      • Hey Bruce, I tried to click on the link below your comment, “Exercises for Story Writers” but it didn’t lead to anything 🙁

        Could you please give us the link? (just write it like this: writetodone[dot]com and it there’s be no problem with the comment.

        Oh, and I visited your author page. Well, you certainly seem to have a lot of folks who like to listen to you science fiction voice…!

    • Mary,

      Thanks for bringing “finding your voice” closer to reality. In October, I posted on my blog “The Style of Voice,” a response to Gary Korisko’s post a while back about “finding your voice.” I completely agree with Gary, and you. I’m sure most fiction writers, editors, and literary scholars would also agree with your post—agree that the “voice” of the writer does not exist in a work of fiction. In fiction, the narrator has his or her own voice; the characters have their own voices. Maybe in memoir or poetry the author’s voice makes sense. With fiction, writers find a “story,” or find their story while drafting what they first thought was the story. When writing online articles and posts, you find a topic. Waiting for “your voice” to show up is a little like waiting to win a lottery without buying a ticket. Or as you so succinctly put it, “‘finding’ your voice is pure, well … cow splatter!”

      However, after writing my post, I realized I was being too dismissive of a serious issue for many new writers. That realization forced me to write another post about the real issue: If writers are not talking about the “voice” of their writing, then what do they really mean? They mean their inhibitions or their lack of confidence. There are solutions to those problems.

      The way to solve a problem is to accept it for what it is, not avoid it by making it into an unsolvable problem. “Lack of confidence” has solutions; “finding your voice” does not. Being able to gain confidence or free yourself from paralyzing inhibition is a lot easier than waiting for something that does not exist to magically show up and rescue you. If you’re a new writer with deep emotional issues, you’ll either do as Mary suggested and spend eternity in therapy, or creatively use your emotional experiences in your writing. So, save yourself lots of money, and maybe make some, by writing instead of waiting for the unlikely, if not the impossible.

      Writing is difficult. But if you’re a writer, or want to be one, your life is going to be more difficult if you don’t write.

      “Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is great because when we see this truth we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult—once we truly understand and accept it—then life is no longer difficult. Because once we accept it, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.”—M. Scott Peck

      One solution to the confidence problem—not “voice” problem—is to replace “life is difficult” with “writing is difficult,” and once you’ve accept that truth, you’ll find what you’ve been looking for. And please let us know if it actually ends up being a “voice.” Not likely. But, hey, I’ve been wrong many times, and I’ve always learned something from my mistakes. Maybe I’ll find out that my dry spells as a writer were because I am nothing but a ventriloquist’s dummy waiting for a distant ventriloquist to put words into my blank mind.

      Wishing you the best.

    • Rachel says:

      I love this article and all the comments. Sometimes we spend too much time seeking our voice or something similar and miss out on actually writing.

      • How true, Rachel! All this search of your writing voice – and you miss out on actually putting words onto a page…

      • Mary,

        Thanks for bringing “finding your voice” closer to reality. In October, I posted on my blog “The Style of Voice,” a response to Gary Korisko’s post a while back about “finding your voice.” I completely agree with Gary, and you. I’m sure most fiction writers, editors, and literary scholars would also agree with your post—agree that the “voice” of the writer does not exist in a work of fiction. In fiction, the narrator has his or her own voice; the characters have their own voices. Maybe in memoir or poetry the author’s voice makes sense. With fiction, writers find a “story,” or find their story while drafting what they first thought was the story. When writing online articles and posts, you find a topic. Waiting for “your voice” to show up is a little like waiting to win a lottery without buying a ticket. Or as you so succinctly put it, “‘finding’ your voice is pure, well … cow splatter!”

        However, after writing my post, I realized I was being too dismissive of a serious issue for many new writers. That realization forced me to write another post about the real issue: If writers are not talking about the “voice” of their writing, then what do they really mean? They mean their inhibitions or their lack of confidence. There are solutions to those problems.

        • That’s a very interesting comment, Lamont. Could you please add a comment with an URL so that we can read your article about ‘voice’? I’d love to see what you came up with.

          I also appreciate your thought that the preoccupation with ‘finding one’s voice’ masks other problems, like inhibition or lack of confidence.

          Food for thought ….

          • Mary,
            I’ve been reading Write to Done since last year, when I became interested in blogging. Over the past few weeks, I’ve made several unsuccessful attempts to send comments. So, I emailed Vinita and she’s been helpful. I think the problem is on this end—my computer is dying of old age. Anyway, the comment I sent yesterday finally ended up under your post, but the last post on my blog, Department of Lost and Found Voices, did not show up like it did when I commented on another post a week or so ago.

            The problem is that if I include my URL in this comment it might go to spam on your end. So, I’m sending this and I’ll send another few lines with the URL to Measure and Madness, my blog. You can easily find the posts about voice. Or just click on my name above my comment and that seems to connect to my blog. I’d love for you to read my post. Actually, being new to the blogosphere, I’d love for anybody to read it.

            Keep giving useful advice and realistic opinions.

            Thanks.

            Lamont

            • Dear Lamont, thanks so much for persevering! We’ve had a huge problem with lost comments here on WTD, but the developer who is currently working to fix the problem seems to have nailed it.

              (If anyone else has comment problems on their blog, just write to me via the Contact link in the navigation bar, and I’ll tell you what solutions we found.)

              Anyway, the link to your last post showed up below your comment and I was able to go and read it.
              I really liked it, Lamont – good stuff!

            • Mary,
              Thanks for visiting my blog and glad you liked the posts about voice. Actually, if you had not liked them you would’ve had to hear it from me until the end of eternity—or until all lost voices returned to their owners :}

              I’m slowing getting my blog together, and do have another post and might not post anything else for a week while I write the rest of the static content. Blogging is harder than I thought it would be, but I’m not giving up.

              The strangest thing about “lost voices” is that everybody has something to say about it. Reminds me of people at AA meetings who seldom have much to say but start running off at the mouth whenever the topic is “humility.” Guess “voice,” whatever else it might not be, is one of those conversation stimulators. Glad you wrote a post with a title that gets people’s attention, be they voiceless or vociferous :}

              Wishing you the best.

            • I’m always enjoy visiting blogs by passionate bloggers 🙂

              As to blogging being hard, it’s important to learn to blog strategically, that is, to complete those tasks that mover your blog forward, and to leave other to times when you want to do some ‘digital fiddling’.

    • Virginia says:

      My voice may change depending on what I am writing and the mood I am in. It flows.

      • That’s a very interesting point about the interaction of mood and voice, Viriginia. Any other takes on this?

    • Sally says:

      Finding your voice is a very real thing, even though it’s true that you can’t really lose it in the first place. Why? Because there are levels of consciousness and sometimes we get ‘stuck’ in a superficial personality layer that is not connected to our core ‘writer’ self. If that layer has a belief or story that it is not “creative” enough or good enough in some way, we will tend to distrust and therefore not allow our ‘real’ (deepest) voice to emerge. This has been my experience and that of many authors/writers I work with (I’m an book editor). Great topic for reflection and discussion. Thanks, Mary!

      • Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Sally. Your point that people can get stuck in a superficial personality level is very interesting.

    • Gloria Stern says:

      A quote from Elizabeth Berg – “There is something charismatic about someone being wholeheartedly and unaffectedly themselves—“

      • OH! What a beautiful quote, Gloria!

        I was just thinking about how this plays out with writing. It seems to me that it’s super important to keep the Creator and the Editor separate. What I mean is that the best way is to just put words on the page, without stopping to ‘make it better’. Then, maybe a day later, we can go in with our ‘Editor’ hat on to work on what we’ve written.

        So many writers tie themselves up in knots because they try to create AND edit at the same time. That’s like pulling and pushing at the same time…

    • Jane says:

      Yes losing oneself is more important than making things complicated in finding one’s self. In fact, personally, if I spend too much time in finding my own voice I end up wasting my time! But if I let myself go with the flow, I just end up creating a piece that has my own unique voice in it.

      The process of “finding your voice” isn’t a complicated process at all, as most people make it.

      Thanks for sharing this wonderful piece Mary!

      • Hey Jane – beautifully put! I especially love the sentence: “But if I let myself go with the flow, I just end up creating a piece that has my own unique voice in it.”

        BTW, I visited your blog and really liked it! I left a comment, but couldn’t see it afterward.

    • Pat says:

      I love this post because while honoring fundamental guidelines it reeks of breaking the rules as well. I completely agree, it’s not about finding your voice, it’s about expressing it (in a presentable way of course). Thanks for your encouragement Mary.

      • Pat – yeah. Breaking the rules is a good thing. Especially the rules we instinctively follow because we want to appear a certain way.

        For example, when I first started my blog GoodlifeZEN.com, my early posts were awful! Not because they were badly written, but because I wanted to appear ‘wise’. So of course my first posts were all stiff and solemn, instead of being alive and nourishing.

    • Hey Mary:

      Thanks for including me in the post!!

      Also *love* and agree with this statement, “Losing Yourself is More Important Than Finding Yourself.” Smart stuff — and a sentiment that has proven itself to be true in my online life for sure.

      Really good post 🙂

      • Hey Gary, thanks for appearing here. The fact that I remembered your quote is a sign that I read your posts – and even remember them … 🙂

    • This is a great post, Mary, and yet I’m considering the main point – “The more we write the more our natural writing voice appears.”

      That means we are still in the process of “finding our voice” as we go along. We are a work, a voice in progress. We are growing and evolving as a person and as a writer.

      Voice is not a static thing. It’s alive and vital and subject to change.

      To me, we are always and forever finding our voice in every writing session, each moment.

      • I like what you say, Mia: “Voice is not a static thing. It’s alive and vital and subject to change.”

        I think our natural voice is always trying to come forth. We just need to step aside and let it happen.

    • Michelle says:

      This is easily the best post you have ever written! You had me at “Let’s switch from writing to dancing for a moment.” The randomness of thought, the embracing of the moment is (to me), what what writing, communicating is all about!

      Preach, Mary, preach!!!

      • Hey Michelle, thanks for your kind words!

        There is a story about how this post came about. I was reading Glen Long’s post on Boost Blog Traffic, “Why Most Writing Tips Are Useless (and How to Really Up Your Game)” and in my comment there, I suggested it would be fun to write, using one of the ‘writer’s hats’ that we don’t usually use. So I chose the “Troublemaker” and wrote this post 🙂

        • Debra says:

          I loved this post because I am forever trying to find my voice ( as if its lost somewhere). But when you commented on dancing I began to understand. There are times when I am listening to music that my body begins to move voluntarily and I don’t know why, but it does feel good. Now to try and turn off everything and everyone else when I am writing. I remember when as a kid I couldn’t wait to get to my notebook ( the paper kind- they didn’t have these wonders yet), and just write. It wasn’t until I got older did that change- I am trying to get back to that kid again so I am using paper notebooks again and just writing.

          But one of the others mentioned about getting into the characters voice, aren’t our characters a kinda representation of who we are- don’t we add some of who we are into them which would = our voice? Or am I wrong?

          • I love the fact that you are going back to your notebook – to recover that freedom of just writing with joy, Debra.

            Your question, “Aren’t our characters a kinda representation of who we are- don’t we add some of who we are into them which would = our voice?” is very interesting.

            I think the more we can immerse ourselves into a particular character and give them their particular voice, the more believable our fictitious characters become.

            If each character just represents who we are, it weakens the plot. But maybe there is a remnant of our natural voice in everything we write.

            What do others think?

    • Ellen Best says:

      Forgive my obvious Ignorance when I say this. Before you speak in a character’s voice you have to step in to his shoes. To do that you first have to take off your own. Is it the burly Cornish fisherman on the quay you need to hear when you read ; or me?

      • That’s an excellent point, Michelle. As writers we need to be flexible enough to adapt how we write to fit the characters we create in fiction. But as soon as the ‘Cornish fisherman’ has finished speaking, you need to be able to swing back to your natural writing voice.

        Thanks for bringing this up.

    • Terence says:

      Yeh Mary, you are right about being tentative and awkward when you become conscious of being proper or, are unfamiliar with topic…whatever it may be, whether dancing or writing etc. Free-writing is the closest one can get to ‘your voice’.

      • Yes, Terrence, free-writing is a great way to develop one’s writing!


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