I’ve struggled with this thing called “writing voice” lately. It’s not because I don’t understand it and it’s not because I don’t have a pretty good idea what my “voice” in writing would be at any given time. It’s because, after reading tons of blogs and articles on the subject, I’ve come to realize that I have more than one.
A little background.
From my youngest days I’ve been on stage for one reason or another and have learned the value of finding the proper “voice” for a performance.
At about five years old I began singing in my church choir. That led to many years of performing in various types of groups in my lifetime. From Madrigals and the Chamber Choir in high school and college, to musicals, coffee shops, campfires and few attempts at becoming a “rock star”.
I was such a great musician and singer that I became a writer, but that’s not my point here.
When I was performing Chamber Music, especially during a solo, my delivery was very “traditional” or “proper” (Think conservative voice lessons).
On the other hand, when I was on stage with my Les Paul, parachute pants and five gallons of cheap hairspray holding my multicolored hair sculpture in place (hey, it was the 80’s!), I rarely channeled my inner Pavarotti.
And when I sang country or folk – well, you get the idea, right?
“Cool. So I won’t be inviting you to my karaoke party. About writing?”
Writing, I’ve found, isn’t any different from singing when it comes to finding your “voice”.
When my writing is for corporate or technical purposes, my “voice” is a bit more subdued and “controlled” (“proper”?).
When I’m writing commentary, reviews or articles of a more casual nature, my “voice” relaxes a bit. A little more slang (“twang”?). A bit more levity. A style that would have any English teacher wonder if I skipped class more often than not.
And, of course, there are times when I completely lose control. Examples for this would be things like rants, comedy, advertising copy, personal life communications (lk, f U&I wr txtN or ch@iN on d www). And in those situations it’s either okay or expected as long as it’s natural (click here to understand the limitations of this as a conscious strategy beyond the borders of “natural”).
I am not saying that everyone that’s out there saying “find your writing voice” is wrong just because they don’t add an “s” to the end of the word, because they’re not. The best blogs, newspaper columns, syndicated reports and even comic strips all have their own unique and consistent “voice”. The key point in that statement is that none of those things are PEOPLE.
“A product can be quickly outdated, but a successful brand is timeless.” – Stephen King
Ever heard of an author who’s published under a pseudonym? That’s an example of one person using two voices.
At the professional level, it boils down to brand consistency. That massive fast food chain doesn’t serve the best food in the world, but it’s always the same! More to my point is that they also own other types of eateries that are completely different in service, style, presentation, ambiance, menu items… and names. See where I’m going with this?
I firmly believe that my “teaching voice” should be different than my “ranting”, “comedy”, “blogging” or “personal” voices. And, at times, I may choose to toss in a little of one or another to keep my current audience awake.
Think of it as moods. For example, in my case I could put it like this:
- Corporate/Technical: Serious mood. Formal.
- Articles/Reviews/Commentary: Relaxed and interested. Casual.
- Rants/Comedy/Personal: Whatever dood! Just sayin’.
Isn’t it nice to know that you don’t have to pick just one!
One important thing that I’d like to mention before I’m done here is stated perfectly by Jeff Goins in this post (great site for writers and bloggers!).
In a nutshell, my take on “writer’s voice” is to simply decide which version of you (serious, casual, lamp shade hat person at the party, etc…) will be speaking for each project and what kind of mood is required. If you keep those two things in mind, you probably won’t have to worry much about finding your voice. It will already be there.
But, don’t forget – that even the most accomplished singers still hold their hands to their ears while singing and occasionally ask people “What did that sound like?”.
Have you found your writing voices? How many have you found that you can define and how was it you discovered them?
Share with us and leave a comment below! I’d love to hear your stories, thoughts and advice on this subject!
Thanks for spending time with me today!