What makes our writer’s ‘voice’ uniquely ours is about more than just the words we use and how we use them, it also has to do with what we write about; with the underlying themes and subjects we tackle. It’s only when we peel back the layers of ourselves and write about what truly obsesses us, what we feel passionately about, that the emotional truth of our writing emerges: the thing that has our writing lasting in a reader’s mind long after they close the final page. And that emotional truth is something that can’t be faked.
We’re a notoriously insecure breed, us writers, and it’s so easy to lose ourselves in the ‘shoulds’ that our inner critic, those “How to Write” manuals, or even just our flighty selves throw at us. It’s easy to compare our writing to that of others we admire, or those who are more successful than us, and to listen to the devil on our shoulder who whispers that maybe our writing should be more like theirs. But that’s just playing the magpie, being attracted to the shiny things that belong to other people instead of polishing up our own.
On a good day, I believe I have a ‘voice’ as a writer that is distinctly mine: it’s the one I find myself returning to when I stop angsting over my writing and simply go with the flow. There are aspects of my voice that I need to develop, just as there are bad habits I need to iron out, overwriting I need to tone down, but the core of it is definitely there. It’s also true that I often lose sight of that voice amidst the morass of ‘shoulds’ that constantly plague me, and when I do, more often than not, along comes a Writerly Crisis. Because I’m not being true to myself. I’m trying to be the writer I think I should be.
It’s a lesson I seem to have to learn over and over again, that the most important thing is to silence those ‘shoulds’, be true to myself and to be the writer I am. For better or worse.