I’ve heard a lot of publishers and agents talk about this mysterious thing called a ‘writer’s voice’ – even a fair few writers have mentioned it. On a basic level it’s the unique magic that appears in a writer’s narrative – something that identifies those words, strung together in such a way with a certain tempo and beat that means you can say who’s written in within a page or two (sometimes even just a sentence or two!).
I’ve come back from my recent break away, having done no writing for five days, convinced that I don’t have this ‘magical quality’ in my writing. I don’t know what’s occurred to make me question it, but all of a sudden I’m morose about my writing ability.
As a writer can you even tell if you have a ‘voice’ yet? Or is it something that other people have to point out for you? If I can’t even identify what it is about my writing that tethers it to me, does that mean I haven’t yet developed a ‘voice’? Can you be a good writer without a ‘voice’?
All these questions and more are rattling around my head, which is currently empty of ideas and drive and hollow with the fear of having nothing to offer. I’m sure I’ve felt this way before – early on in my writing journey when I didn’t have anything to show for a belief in myself. As a result, I’m vaguely aware that it shall pass; that I’ll just sit down to write one day, sweep away the doubts with a shrug and just get on with it regardless. After all, that’s what I’ve being doing up until now.
But it seems important somehow to share this fear of having no voice; the terror that I lack any distinguishing talent markers in my own writing. I shouldn’t ignore it and hope it goes away. I feel the need to share it, to demonstrate that we might all experience this at some point and to admit that ‘yes, I’m going through this too’. Because, after all, if anything could make me feel better – could jolt me out of this particular valley of doom – it would be to discover that another writer knows just what I’m referring to when I say I fear I have no voice and to be comforted by the fact that this is just another phase – another challenging step – on this journey.
I need to let go of my fear but not before I’ve made peace with it. Freeing the fear to prowl around and attack me at will would not be the right course of action here – then I would just be afraid of it pouncing when I least expect it. No, I have to examine what is at the root of my fear; is it that I just haven’t written anything for five days and I’ve forgotten myself? Might it be that I’m scared I’ve edited my novel so much that I’ve pared it down to simple words without emotion or meaning – thereby negating the voice that might have been there? Have I neglected the development of a voice – not seen the signs of one in my words and ignored what could be there already?
Whatever it is, I’m determined to pass through this phase and conquer the fear I have of not knowing whether or not my writing has that spark of my soul hidden within it. ‘Voice’ seems like something you can’t go actively searching for – an ephemeral being that can’t be seen by looking directly at it. But that doesn’t mean I can’t be aware of that movement out of the corner of my eye and be comforted to know that it is a friend, not a foe. Most of all, I can’t let the fear stop me from moving forward. If you have to write to develop that voice then my only solution is to write…
What about you? Do you doubt or fear your own writing capabilities? Do you recognise your own ‘voice’ in your writing or are you still trying to find it?
Let me know in comments. Or, as usual, Tweet Me.