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Know Jack #323 Voice Lessons

I didn’t have a pithy witticism to share about finding your voice as a writer. So, I searched through a stack of quotes looking for one to introduce this blog and realized that was exactly the thing I wished to tell people not to do. A writer doesn’t so much need to find or develop a writer’s voice as to exercise one.

The truth is every writer has a voice. Whether you dare to use it is another matter altogether. Writing is simply a means of speaking. and speaking is thinking out loud. Therefore, a writer who has a unique voice is the one who thinks for himself. Dare not say the things you think, and you cannot help but have a unique voice. This doesn’t require originality—there’s nothing new under the sun—it just requires a healthy distrust of conformity.

Jesus told His followers, “Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you!” It is exceptional advice for writers too. A writer’s voice is the one in his head that fires away at every passionless attitude. This is not an invitation to rudeness or incivility, but to fervency of spirit.

It is much safer to parrot popular words, and to imitate the way other’s express their ideas. In a world conditioned to the banal, homogenous sounds of media-speak, a real voice grates on group sensibilities. It doesn’t say the things everyone else is saying.

I’m going to slip into that mold and tell you that real voices are selfish. They express only individual ideas and opinions and ignore the consensus of the common mind.

Now, all that sounds very serious, and it is in one sense. Voice is important to a writer, but that doesn’t mean that that voice can’t be silly or just plain weird. I wrote a story once about vampire cockroaches from outer space who visited Wyoming.

Yeah, I know, right? But it was my thought, my imagination, my words choices—my voice. As silly as it sounds, there was a real moral to the story concerning our need to treat each other as beings of worth.

I write about the ugly truth of the evil way people treat each other, but I still believe we all have worth. If that comes through in what I write, then I have found my voice—which was there all along. It just needed expressing.

What was the old buzz the government had people parroting? “See something, say something.” Break that out of the box it came in and you have the makings of an author’s voice.


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