Every writer of every kind — whether a journalist, a copywriter or a novelist — is taught the importance of finding their “Voice”.
Yet Voice is not this singular, elusive identity waiting for us somewhere out there in the world.
The same way you can use your actual voice to sing, shout, even do impressions, your Voice is malleable, it’s versatile, it’s something you already have but need to exercise.
You know, the first thing they tell you about improving your writing is to write a lot and read a lot. And there’s a reason for that.
An aggregate of stolen voices
Not only do you need to practice writing to develop your own unique Voice, you also need to borrow from the writers you admire. The things you like about what you read, what we call “taste”, influences how you develop your own style over time.
Your Voice is mostly stolen, often without knowing — And that’s okay.
We start off with how we speak, putting it on paper, and as we practice writing and consume more work by other authors, we start to incorporate different styles into our own. Editing stops being about making sure the right theirs are theres, and starts being about fine-tuning the tone and style of your Voice.
And in siphoning others’ styles, a bit of of what we borrow changes as we make it our own; something always gets lost in translation and that’s the best part.
What you end up with is something that’s uniquely yours: a Voice that becomes your greatest asset as a writer.
A Writer’s most important tool isn’t a pen
The same way a radio DJ or TV personality can make a living by being who they are in front of an audience, a writer creates his or her demand because of who they are as a result of their Voice and what they can do with an audience (along with their knowledge and experience, of course).
Writers are a product of their audiences, as much as they are a product of what they read.
You create all this stuff, you put it in front of thousands, let them chew it up, and you see what they devoured and what they spat back out.
Over time you learn what works and what doesn’t, when and where it does, across different types of audiences and even media.
So you never truly “find” your Voice; it’s not the kind of thing you lose. You build it over time; you make it clearer, stronger and more flexible through practice. Eventually, you develop a whole spectrum of styles that you can choose from based on what the situation calls for.
So instead of trying to find your Voice, try finding any excuse you can to play with language. Get to know the Voice you have, the one you’re already building, because it’s the only thing that makes your words your own.