If you’ve spent any time in a high school or college English class, you’ve probably heard a teacher or professor say, “Anyone can be a proficient writer! It’s all about finding your voice.” Upon hearing that, a few thoughts may enter your mind:
“What does that even mean?”
“Uhhh words don’t have vocal cords, how are they supposed to have a voice?”
“Wait maybe writing with a voice is just…talking?”
“Whatever that means, I’m pretty sure I don’t have a voice in my writing.”
I completely understand why the idea of “your voice” in writing might be confusing, and I want to clarify what it means to have a voice and the importance of channeling it into your writing.
So, what do professors mean when they refer to a voice in writing? Simply put, a voice is the unique style and manner in which an author communicates his or her ideas. This can be seen in sentence structures, vocabulary choices, tones and expressions, and so much more. More often than not, the real-life mannerisms and personality traits of authors manifest themselves in their writing because people tend to write similar to how they converse with others in their day-to-day lives.
Using myself as an example, I have a pretty dry and sarcastic personality, and my writing reflects that. Naturally, I have a straightforward delivery in my voice, so writing with an overly energetic or perky tone would result in an awkwardly formulated paper. Having that self-awareness is important for me, as a writer, because I want to come across as myself in my writing. As writers, we never want to come across as disingenuous, so it’s crucial for us to understand our voice and style of writing.
“Well that’s great and all, but I don’t think I have a voice.”
Don’t be ridiculous, you little stinker. Of course you have a voice! I know it’s cliché, but we are all individuals with a distinct set of personality traits, so our writings have different voices from one another (also I know it’s cliché to say “I know it’s cliché,” but listen we need to stay focused). If you are a living, literate person with a soul, you have a voice in your writing.
“Okay, but how do I find my voice? Also, I’m not a little stinker.”
Fair enough, I apologize for calling you a little stinker. Finding and becoming comfortable with your voice can be incredibly difficult. It can take years of writing to find your voice because it requires an understanding of who you are as an individual, an arduous process in it of itself. You don’t need to know everything about who you are as a person to find your voice, but think about some of these questions if you’re lost:
- What activities do you enjoy?
- What kind of writing compels you?
- What style of writing would you want to engage in?
- What are you passionate about?
- What do you love talking about with people?
- How do you enjoy engaging in your interests (discussions with others, listening to lectures, interactive activities, etc.)?
Hopefully, these questions can help you understand what your interests are and how you can engage with them. When you take something you’re passionate about and interact with it through writing, you are able to lay out your thoughts in the most natural manner. That is your voice!
I understand the feeling of frustration that comes from not having a grasp of your voice, but don’t lose hope. It’s not an easy process, but it’s also not impossible. Keep engaging in your passions and writing consistently, and over time, your voice will come to you, ya little stinker (sorry).