“How do I find my voice?”
This question is often a constant struggle for aspiring authors. We hold up having an authentic voice as a shining paradigm of how we are all unique and special, and it is only when we have found our individual voice that our writing be good enough. This can be crippling, causing writer’s block seeded in fear of inadequacy.
But it’s also just not true.
There are tons of examples of writing that has done remarkably well for its intended purpose as an inauthentic voice. For example, ghostwriters are paid to specifically notuse their authentic voice, but to mimic that of the official author. Plus, anything that’s written by a corporation has to maintain a consistent voice that matches the brand, so the writers must learn to match it.
There is no shame in mimicking the voice of someone you admire—and it may actually help you find your own.
Mimicking Other Voices
In order to mimic the voice of another author, you need to immerse yourself in their work. This doesn’t just mean reading their books—although that’s a great place to start. Delve into their work deeper. What makes their voice unique? Take note of the cadence, sentence structure, tension, arc, word choice—anything that makes their work stand out.
Listen to their work, too. Listen to the audiobook to see how someone else delivers their words and how it changes the tone. Listen to interviews with the author and see how their speaking voice compares to that of their writing. What is consistent? What is different?
Then start writing. You should be able to pull the elements that make their writing so wonderful into your own. If you can hear their voice in your head when reading back what you’ve written, then you know you’ve captured their essence.
Apply This to Yourself
Now that you can identify what makes other voices unique, peel back that layer. Write. A lot. Without mimicking someone’s voice. Write badly. Write outside your genre.
Read your work aloud. Do you sound like you? Identify where you sound most like yourself—and least like yourself—and figure out why. Recording your voice may help with this.
In fact, record your voice when you’re not reading anything. Just record yourself talking to yourself. It may take awhile to get comfortable enough to be yourself, but then listen to it back. Try not to cringe at the sound of your own voice—no one likes their own voice at first. But listen not to what you’re saying, but how you’re saying it. How are you conveying meaning beyond the words? Again, take note of the cadence, sentence structure, tension, arc, word choice—anything that makes it sound like you.
Then write some more. Translate the most “you” elements of your speech to writing. Keep writing.
Write your favorite party story; the anecdote you’ve perfected by telling it so many times over the years. Read it aloud. Is that right? If not, why?
Keep writing and reading your work aloud. When you think you’ve got it, send it to someone you love and trust. Someone who knows your very soul.
After they’re done reading it, don’t ask their opinion. Ask them “was it my voice reading it in your head?” If it was, then you’ve done it—you’ve found your voice.
If not, keep going.