Every writer has a ‘voice’ (and I don’t mean a physical, words-coming-from-your-mouth type of voice) I mean a creative voice, which is the style, rhythm, pattern, and way in which you articulate information or thoughts. This voice is unique to you, it’s built over time, and most importantly, it’s something that others can identify as yours.
When you’re first starting out as a writer, finding this voice is incredibly difficult because as beginners, we’re so often pulling from and emulating styles of writers and creatives we encounter. In order to be successful writer, however, you have to create a style that is different, dynamic, and you.
Here are six tips to help:
1. List the things/values that you would identify as your ‘brand.’
Finding a voice comes from finding who you are and what you identify with. Though you’re a dynamic, continually changing person, you will always have thoughts and values that you hold close.
In order to really figure out your creative voice, start by making a list of the things you love, the things you believe, the things you would fight for. List your values, your truths, even your pet peeves to see what is not you. List descriptive words that you would use to define yourself to someone who doesn’t know you, and even write down aspects of others’ creative work that you read and think “wow, that’s so me.”
From this list, begin to write around these topics. Think of how you speak about these things to yourself, to people you love, to strangers. What are the aspects of your language, slang, rhythm? Can you emulate this natural style in your writing?
2. Write as if you’re talking to yourself.
As I just mentioned, writing like you’re talking to yourself is key. One of the most monumental ways you will build your creative voice is through being as natural as possible. When you’re overthinking, trying so hard to take on someone else’s language, or to forcing yourself to write a different way, not only will you be discouraged but your work will sound contrived.
Instead of trying to have a voice, think of your natural speech. How do you talk to yourself when you’re fighting through a problem? When you’re alone? When you’re contemplating big life decisions? When you’re happy?
Pick up on the natural jargon, sentence structure, word choice. Listen to the way your sentences are—do they flow long and liquid into one another? Are they shorter, choppier? Write yourself a letter. Write as if no one was reading. Write a story with yourself as the central character. Then focus on what makes this writing sound different than what you’re used to.
3. Create a scene in stream of consciousness.
Stream of consciousness writing is when the reader is privy to the character/narrator’s inner monologue. The character talks as if, perhaps, talking to himself/herself but in a long, drawn out, non-interrupted type of way. Research stream of consciousness models on the internet or in books you love and see if you can copy some of the attributes. Write run-on sentences. Write your unedited thoughts. Build a scene around this narration.
And write until you start to identify what sounds ‘normal’ as your own, individual voice.
4. Find and focus on your internal rhythm.
As you write, pay attention to what feels natural, especially in regards to sentence structure. Do you find yourself stopping at the end of every complete sentence? Wanting to break up long phrases into shorter pieces? Feeling the urge to add hyphens or semicolons?
Personal Tidbit: I speak, talk, think, and write very lyrically. To me, having longer sentences, dashes, even run-ons feels natural, so you’ll see a lot of dashes—like this—in my writing to elongate my thoughts in a way that feels more comfortable. Find what works for you and work on developing this.
5. Attempt different styles to see what resonates most with you.
Sometimes finding your voice looks like a lot of trial and error. In the beginning of my career with Thought Catalog, I adopted a very humorous tone. (I think I was trying a little too hard to be funny, truth be told) and I quickly realized that wasn’t right for me.
Figure out what you like by trying different styles. Emulate authors/writers you admire (by the way this means that you take on their style not copy any of their work because that’s plagiarism!!) Experiment and then toss what doesn’t work for you.
6. Practice. Practice. Practice.
As you start to get more comfortable with your writing, work on developing this style with different content. Can you write a lyric poem in addition to a lyric essay? Does your sarcasm come through even on a serious topic, or only a lighthearted one?
Practice. Practice. Practice. (AKA Write. Write. Write.) This is the only way you will improve as a writer—actually doing the craft!
Featured Image Credit: Annie Spratt