Last week I got an email from a friend asking for some “writerly advice” about finding your voice. She works in PR and, because of the amount of writing her job requires, she was having a hard time letting go of the academic and marketing style of writing once she started work on her personal writing (which includes short stories and memoir).
I can so relate to her struggle. Even though I know I’m incredibly lucky to write for a living, it’s a luxury that comes with its own set of challenges. I write copy for clients across several industries, and each has a unique brand, audience and voice. When you’ve got that many voices in your head, is it possible to lose the one that’s truly yours? And even more importantly…
Can there really be only one?
I know that most people will say that a writer’s voice comes out no matter what she’s writing. And I agree—to an extent. If I didn’t have a unique voice, my clients wouldn’t hire me to write for them in the first place.
So maybe instead of asking how to find our voices we should be working on strengthening the one we’ve got, and channeling its honesty into our writing. Maybe from amongst all the little voices we have in our heads, the biggest struggle is finding the one that’s most authentic, the one that exists even when no one—no clients, no publications, no audiences—are asking for it.
And believe me, when you’ve been at your computer all day writing for someone else, it’s hard to pick The One out of all that noise. Here are tips I gave my friend about how I do it:
- Write first thing in the morning, even if it’s really, really early, before your mind goes into work mode (or, writing-for-other-people mode).
- Try writing by hand. As you may already know, I feel like my most honest writing comes when I’m just using a pen and paper. I’m not sure if this is because I normally equate my computer with work-related writing, or because there’s no delete key, but writing by hand seems to channel a different part of my brain and taps into my most creative side.
- More than anything: read. If I’m not reading a great book I notice that my writing suffers. We need to read and absorb different types of writing so that we can reconnect with the artistry of it. In our daily lives we read tons of things—magazines, work emails, Facebook updates—but I think it’s important to also stay exposed to the kind of writing we aspire to.
- I once took a workshop with Cristina Garcia, and she recommended reading poetry right before you start writing. This is one of my favorite things to do because reading beautiful writing inspires me even when I’m not feeling very inspired by my own.
Do you have any tips for reconnecting with your voice? Share them in the comments.