Once your voice is real and audible, people’s attitude to your writing will change. Finding your voice means you are writing something no one else could write.
George Orwell wrote a famous essay called “Why I Write.” In it he lists what he describes as the four reasons any writer writes: sheer egoism, aesthetic enthusiasm, historical impulse, and political purpose.
By his definitions, all four of these motivations lead a writer to want to impose ideas upon others. Readers sense this. This is why writers get it in the neck so hard.
People react badly to egoism. No one likes someone writing just to show off, appear smart, or as Orwell puts it, “to be remembered after death, to get your own back on the grown-ups who snubbed you in childhood, etc.”
People also react badly to being told what to do or think. “Who are you to tell me what I should think? What I should do? How the world works? Why are you special?” is what they are thinking. And finally, “Why are you writing?”
You need to have a good reason. A reason you can stand by. Hopefully it’s good enough, and expressed well enough, to convince readers. Many people are suspicious as soon as you say you are a writer. How could you be so self-absorbed and arrogant, resentful people wonder.
The equation changes when you have a voice
When writers are persuasive, readers know by instinct. This is the definition of a good writer, one with authority. This means a writer with a voice. Ideally, it’s a strong voice that resonates. Finding an author whose writing you can submit to and trust is a wonderful feeling. Orwell is widely admired for his voice.
Singers are said to have a voice when they are immediately recognizable. Great singers without a “voice” do fantastic backup. They are perfect for a chorus where no one voice stands above the rest. Singers with a voice bring a special sound to a song, that only they can bring, but so often this voice is as metaphorical as the one that writers have.
Singers are far more than a physical voice. Their voices reflect the choices of the songs they sing, the emotions they express, the styles they adopt, the personalities they are, what they stand for. Whether your readers agree or not, they will recognize if you have a distinctive voice. They will immediately put down your writing if they find it absent.
Having a clear voice is no mean feat. It takes time and conviction to develop. It is your greatest asset as a writer. Having a recognizable voice is an achievement in and of itself.
Of course, you’ll be most satisfied when readers agree with it. Then your voice gets louder, like a chorus. Hopefully, readers will find your voice pleasing, entertaining, funny, or inspirational. This is the best case scenario.
You need to be 100% behind your voice, because times might come when you’ll need to defend it. In fact, the more you are battered for it, the stronger it should make you. This doesn’t mean you want to be attacked. It just means choose what you stand for carefully.
Your voice is yours. People can think what they want of it.
Keep focusing on “it’s yours.” Everyone has a right to their own opinion, their own view of how the world works, their special type of expression. The more unique your voice becomes, the stronger it becomes.
Readers’ reactions range from dismissive to engaged to enraged to enrapt when a writer has a voice. This is why you need to have one you can stand by. If you are timid about your voice, people will sense your fear.
The hardest part is making sure the voice that comes across is the one you want to. Often attacks are launched because you are being misrepresented or misunderstood. You can easily lose heart when this happens. Just let it be a lesson and make sure your writing is tighter the next time around. Keep working until your voice is solid and you can stand behind it. Then you are immovable.
Immovable, that is, until you learn something new or experience something that alters your voice. This is also part of developing a voice. You might find deeper parts of yourself. You might find hidden parts. You might just change your mind. This is fine too. That’s still honest and valid.
Once your voice is real and audible, people’s attitude to your writing will change. You are writing something no one else could write. Anyone with a voice is someone different.
It’s a huge lifetime accomplishment. Voices are listened to. People love to admire a great voice. They are rare.
So, who are you to tell me? Your success as a writer depends on how you answer.
Target A Niche And Find Your Voice
Why I Am An Independent Author, by Warren Adler
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