Writing Speaks Louder than Words
What does it mean when writers find their voice, and how exactly do they go about that? This question was at the forefront of my mind all while I was applying to graduate creative writing programs, especially when writing personal statements. Grad schools want to know about your writing experience and your goals. But how do you explain that your past writing has prepared you for the goals you want to accomplish? How do you show that the niche you’ve been carving out is your very own, not just to grad schools, but to everyone?
Having a good grasp of technique and other aspects of craft is great and all, but, like all great works, what you write has to have meaning. You have to a motivation behind why you’re writing and what you’re writing, and people need to see that. I realized how important it was (and is) for writers to find what they’re passionate about and be able to translate that in their work. We all have experiences unique to us, and we all have stories we can tell. But if you’re just getting started or wondering if you’ve lost what you once had, how do you find your voice?
Here are a few tips for finding your voice as a writer.
Do Your Research
Let’s be honest, sometimes, as writers, we have to do our research. We (hopefully) learn a lot about life, but we can’t know everything. And sometimes what we discover we’re passionate about is something that we need to learn more about to be that voice of authority. You could be writing “hard” sci-fi and you realize you need to study up on quantum mechanics. Or you could find a niche in historical fiction and you have to research a specific time period.
This greatly depends on what genre you’re writing, and how much you want your fictional world to be like the real world. For example, S. E. Hinton is known for writing about class differences in rural America, but she experienced this in high school and wrote based on these experiences. For another, Bram Stoker is best known for Dracula, but I think it’s safe to say that he didn’t experience vampires personally. They both have varying levels of background that the authors needed to use for research, and it became their voice, or what they’re known for today.
The point is, you need to discover what you’re most passionate about learning and discussing to find your voice.
In fiction you have to create your own world, and if that world is different from ours, you have to be the authority and decide what works and what doesn’t in a way that makes sense. So if you find a niche you’re interested in, you have to do the research to make your work believable. Your voice will build up from there.
Doing all these kinds of studies also means you’re free to take your writing in new directions. It’s not like you have to find your voice right away, or that you ARE going to find your voice right away. One of the best things about writing is being able to try new things and think of new ways to express what you’re talking about.
Some authors are known for their stylistic choices as well as their content. E. E. Cummings’s poetry is unlike any modern poetry of its time because of what he experimented with. This particular style created an innovative voice in poetry Cummings is known for today. But he didn’t start out that way. He had to find his voice by experimenting. His voice comes not only from what he talks about in his poems, but also how he writes those poems.
And there’s no reason to believe you can’t do this as well. Be willing to experiment with words and styles, create a new way to look at what you’re talking about that others have talked about before. Reinvent genres and tropes. Push the boundaries of writing. People will notice, and your way of writing will shine through.
Remember Why You Started in the First Place
Neither of these things will come easily or write away. Sometimes you have to stop and start over to get where you were meant to go. One of my professors told a story of one of his early manuscripts. He wanted to talk about Jesuit priests in rural Wisconsin, and even though he was raised there, he had to do a lot of research on the Jesuits, and he eventually realized that he wasn’t as invested in the project as he once was, so he abandoned it. And as someone who’s abandoned projects in the past, that spoke to me.
If you want to take your writing in different directions, that doesn’t mean you’ve failed. You’re free to try new things and work on that kind of experimenting I just mentioned. Just remember why you started in the first place. Remember that if you’re really a writer, you’re not going to let your mistake get you down and keep you from getting back to writing. Finding your voice takes work because you have to write and practice, and that takes time. Your voice isn’t just going to come out of nowhere. To be known for something means to invest in it. The rest will come later.
Want to know more? Check out some of my other posts while my portfolio is under construction! You’ll also find some helpful links to my work in journals in the Original Writing page. You can find me in Ariel Chart, The Cedarville Review, Nailpolish Stories, Bluepepper, 50 Word Stories, The Aurora Journal, Writing in a Woman’s Voice, The Drabble, Anti-heroin Chic, Art of Autism, Your Daily Poem, and Sledgehammer Lit. You can now also find my FREE microchap at Origami Poems Project, which I am also offering here.