Sunday, August 31, 2014

Lies They Tell Writers, Part 4: Find Your Voice.

Call me an idiot, but I have never understood the admonition to writers to “find your voice.” What does it mean, anyway?
First of all, if there is such a thing as a “voice” how can you not have one? Then, assuming you do have a “voice,” why would you want only one?
Now, if you are a columnist or commentator, I can see how you would want to develop a particular, recognizable writing style. And if you’re writing a memoir or autobiography, it certainly ought to read—sound—like the whole thing comes from the same pen (mouth?).
But if you’re writing a magazine article for, say, Cosmopolitan, it certainly should not sound the same as a story you’re writing for True West. There, it seems the “voice” should be that of the publication and the story. And you wouldn’t want your Old West romance novel to read like your modern-day mystery novel. In fiction, it seems it’s the characters who ought to have “voices,” not the author. Each poem, each song, each short story likewise should speak for itself, in whatever “voice” best tells the story.
Of course I could be wrong, lacking as I am in a literary education. But when it comes to finding my “voice,” I don’t even know where to look.


  1. I'm with you Rod. I don't get it either. The only thought I've had that wanders into a neighborhood like that is building brand. Giving people some idea of what to expect when they pick-up one of your books; but even that strikes me as confining. At the risk of sounding like the tower of Babel: ready, fire, aim.

  2. Thanks, Paul. Your thoughts are always welcome and appreciated.

  3. Rod,
    I can't get over how closely your words and concepts parallel my own. Art itself must be very much the same in any medium. There is a saying that I very much believe in "Talent does what it can, genus does what it must" What you have just said certainly separates the two. Talent has to find the words, The words find the genus.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Jeff. There does seem to be much in common in art, no matter the medium.