The fear of having no voice

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. 

Fears-are-storiesAs 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.




12 responses to “The fear of having no voice

  1. Thank you for sharing your fears. While I’ve never focused on whether or not I have a writing ‘voice’ I do try to make my writing beautiful and true. Often I fear that my writing is not just mediocre, but boring, subpar, awful. Some days it’s so bad I find myself afraid to try to write anything. On days where I feel overwhelmed by my lack of talent I simply start writing about that. I’ve found just putting pen to paper, or fingers to keys overcomes those fears, and I’m writing fearlessly once again. Those fears may never truly go away but at least I’ve found they can be dealt with. Thanks again for sharing!

  2. I think voice is something that develops naturally over time and isn’t something you can force. Nor should you either, especially with a blog. I love trying wildly different styles, just to experiment with different things. The voice of the storyteller is very important, but ultimately, it is the story itself which is king.

    • Thanks David – the idea that the story should come before voice is something I also believe in. I often find myself wondering if the story I’m telling is unfolding in the most ‘dramatic’ way or if I need to alter the narrative to make it flow better. Once I start breaking down the story’s essential elements, tone and style seem to manifest themselves in the most appropriate way.
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting – appreciate the advice.
      Take Care,

  3. I recently had a very similar fear around my blog. I was going through a rough patch of not having any good topics to post on, being busy at all manner of other things, and worry over my blog not taking off. Ironically the worry hit top pressure the day after I got 58 views thanks to @NaNoWriMo tweeting a post I wrote after I’d had a great time with them. That day’s views, not buoyed by an actual-known referencing my blog? 17, back to my general average on days I posted things.
    I floundered the fear elsewhere, stressing on other people’s comments section (thankfully they had posted about building a following or similar) about how despite all of the posts I’ve written, and the self-perceived high quality of those posts, my blog was sitting at the exact same point it had been in December shortly after I’d first started it.
    I got feedback that it’s just slow to start, and that as long as I stick at it, I’ll be just fine. Tentatively, I stepped back out there, trying to shake my fear of staying ignominious forever. Just like that I’ve got posts that are actually starting discussions, causing engagement that I didn’t have before. It feels different, like I’m actually on track to do something.
    Some would say that I shouldn’t worry about my blog following, because it’s not like my novels will get ignored when they get published, but for me I want my blog following to be my novels’ initial audience. I write both my fiction and my nonfiction almost the same, so if people like what I write on my blog, they’ll likely like what I wrote in my latest book.
    So like you, I’ve learned that the fear is unfounded, that I’m capable as long as I’m passionate about what I do. Authenticity is rapidly becoming my most important virtue to nurture as I spend more and more time writing.

    • Thank you so much for sharing your experience. You have some very wise words there – most importantly ‘authenticity’. It seems that in order to develop a voice we need to be true to ourselves and just ‘let it happen’ in some cases. Also, I believe you’re right when you say that the passion for what we’re doing helps to make us capable of doing it.
      I appreciate you stopping by and commenting and plan to check out your own blog – because it sounds like one I should be reading. 😉
      Good luck with building your audience, and with the novels.
      Take Care, Cat

  4. Here’s the bit where I say something like: “better no voice at all than a voice like Dan Brown’s”.

    Many of the great writers (Philip K. Dick, Ray Bradbury etc) admit that when they started they were merely copying the styles of others and only when they felt more free to let themselves go did they ‘find their voice’ (not sure they actually used this phrase).

    Dick’s writing in particular was very uneven and it was his ideas rather than his style that made him recognisable, so I wouldn’t worry about your voice, Cat. As long as you have ideas to put on the page you will continue to hone your skills and find a groove you will call your own.

    • Thanks doll. I hadn’t thought about it quite like that. Can always trust you to come at things from a distinctive point of view and help me contextualise my worries. 🙂
      Hope all is well with you. Appreciate you taking the time to comment and reassure me, as always.
      Take Care, Cat x

      • 🙂 I enjoy reading your blog, it’s waaaay more interesting than all the blogs that offer the ‘right’ way to do things. It’s inspiring reading about you overcoming your writing hurdles.

      • Thanks hon. As you know I don’t believe much in the ‘right’ way to do things – just your own way. I’ll endeavour to continue overcoming my writing hurdles; with your support and encouragement I’m sure it’s much easier.
        Take Care, x

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