Four Steps to Finding Your Voice as a Writer

Four Steps to Finding Your Voice

Every writer has struggled with finding their voice at some point or other, usually at the beginning of their career. It’s often a case of hit-and-miss, of experimenting, of looking outwards at new experiences and also inward to finding out just who we are, for if we don’t know who we are, how then can we find that authentic voice, the voice that readers can relate to, the voice that is uniquely ours with all our quirks and foibles and little whimsies?

Finding my voice is something I’m still working on myself, both as a writer of stories and as a blogger, a daily work in progress. I’ve gotten a lot more confident at the task of expressing myself authentically, though I still think I’m not quite there yet. I’ve more to write, more to learn and more to practice.

However, I’ve learned quite a bit along the way so far and I thought I’d share below four key tips to help smooth the way on to finding your true writer’s voice.

 Read widely.

Read widely. Read books, magazines, newspapers, online news sites and blogs. Read poetry, stories, articles and editorials. Read across a wide variety of genres from classics to satire to literary fiction to chic lit to westerns to horror to fantasy to, yes, even erotic fiction! Never be a reading snob because for every style or genre you eschew, you’re missing out on all the merit and excellence that could be picked up from these works. If you are a blogger, read fitness blogs, lifestyle blogs, news blogs, funny blogs, silly blogs, business blogs, travel blogs, all kinds of blogs including those outside of your chosen niche markets. And read other things besides blogs too. If you are a writer, read books outside of your chosen genre. Read to get a feel of what works and what doesn’t work. Read books you are drawn to; read books you never otherwise would have picked up. Read widely in order to assimilate as many writing styles as possible, for these are the learning materials you will draw on when you write.

 Write Widely.

As they say, practice, practice, practice. Write as much as you can. Write about anything and everything. Write in as many different styles, genres and perspectives as you can to get a feel of what works best for you.  Try writing in past tense; try writing in present tense. Write a narrative from a first person’s point of view; write from a third person’s point of view. Write as briefly and concisely as you can – then let loose and write with as many flowery adjectives and baroque descriptions as your artistic soul longs to. Then try and find the middle ground, the happy medium between the two.

Writers of stories – gather all your characters, from the protagonist to the villain to the secondary and third characters to that random girl who was walking her dog on the other side of the street in chapter ten and write stories featuring all their points of view. Think of this as writing drills.

Bloggers, write as many posts as you can. You don’t need to publish them until you feel comfortable doing so but just keep writing them and maybe later you can go back to these drafts and try and figure out what worked and what didn’t worked and you can then re-edit until you’re happy with them.

And this is when we come to the editing – yes, this counts as writing too! Remember the phrase ‘say what you mean and mean what you say’? Well, in the case of writers, it’s ‘write what you mean and mean what you write’. Only this is a learning process so you will probably have to edit over and over again until you’re sure you’ve found the right words to express what you mean to say. Be a thoughtful writer – consider what you write, what the implications of your words could be, what effect it might have on others reading it, if this word or that word is exactly the right word to express what you wish to say. Again, this will come naturally the more you write and edit. The first step is always to get what’s on your mind down on paper (or your laptop!), no matter how clumsy or awkward your writing might be initially. That’s what they call the first draft. Then – edit, edit, edit.

Oftimes it may feel as if you’re imitating the styles of other writers before you; you probably are. It may feel like everything you write is awkward and stilted; it probably is. But like everything, it takes practice to get the words to flow smoothly – the more you write, the more comfortable you will be with writing and the closer you’ll get to finding your true style and true voice.

And that brings us to…

 Stay True to yourself.

Never write to please your audience or an editor; never write in a certain way or about certain things mainly because you think this will help you sell books or attract more site traffic or because you are afraid others will judge you. Write about what you believe in. Write about the things you enjoy writing about. Write because it stretches your limits and your imagination and your mind. Write to improve your craft, this craft that you have chosen to master. Certainly, you should write with your readers in mind, but never write to please a faceless audience at the cost of your art. Write something you would enjoy reading. Never write something you would be ashamed of. Always write something you would be proud to stand up and claim as your own before anyone and everyone. Write something you would always believe in. Write with true conviction – for that is when you will write with true grace.

 Don’t compare yourself to others.

Never compare yourself to writers who have gone before you or writers who have come after you. Admire their work, certainly, that witty turn of phrase, that clever poem, funny blog post or that crazy-complicated ‘who woulda thunk it?!?’ mystery plot. Use their work as a means to spur yourself on, a bar to reach, a motivator to continue to hone your craft until you’re as good as they are in your own way.

But in the meantime, don’t let the gap between where you are and where they are right now stand in the way of you working your way up to the top as well.  Everyone has to start somewhere and they’ve probably stood where you’re standing now, wondering where to start and how to find their own voice. They’ve worked their way up to the top and now it’s your time. If they can do it, so can you!

In the same vein, do not compare yourself to your peers. More importantly, do not compare book sales or agent contracts or publishing deals or blog popularity. Remember that everyone moves at their own pace. Know that if you provide quality content, your work too will gain notice. And finally, if you must compare, compare yourself with an earlier version of yourself – and smile when you see how far you’ve come.

Like A Girl

 

First of all, I just have to say how blown away I am by this video and how close I was to tears while watching it. I can’t count the number of times I’ve already watched this over and over again and each time it touches a chord deep within me.

The ad, commissioned by Always and directed by Sundance award winning director Lauren Greenfield, begins by asking girls of various ages (and a couple of boys) to demonstrate what it means to run like a girl, throw like a girl and fight like a girl. The results are an eye-opener. Those in an older age bracket would pretend to throw a ball feebly, fight ‘cat-like’ or run feebly and in a cartoon-like manner with arms flailing everywhere.

But then the younger girls come on. And in respond to the same question, they run. They run with confidence and form, they’re throwing, karate kicking and punching with power and strength behind every move.

The phrase ‘like a girl’ has been used all too often to imply someone is weak or inept or a failure, an insult which reinforces negative stereotypes about being a girl. It’s a powerful message that Always and Greenfield are trying to get across and judging by how viral the video has gone, it’s a message that’s getting through to everyone.

This ad comes on the latest wave of female empowerment campaigns, including the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty, the Lean In movement started by Sheryl Sandberg, the Covergirl ‘Girls Can’ movement and Pantene’s ‘Not Sorry’ campaign. It also comes on the back of criticism aimed at LEGO for the gender stereotypes in its marketing for kids. And sure the message is being pushed now by a global corporation (Proctor & Gamble) but, hey, I’m all for big companies pushing positive messages of change out to a wider audience rather than using the same old stereotypical sex-sells campaigns. Sorry I’m not sorry? Actually, not sorry that I’m not sorry.

In fact, when I watch this video now, I’m reminded of a Toys R Us ad that I really, really loved as a child. The ad features a bunch of kids, each one performing an action of some sort with a toy while singing, ‘I don’t want to grow up. I wanna be a Toys R Us kid.’ But the main kid that stood out for me was a little girl dressed in jeans, a T-shirt and a baseball cap, swinging a baseball bat with gusto and hitting a ball out of the park (or at least out of the camera’s field of view) before resting the bat on her shoulder and singing of how she wants to be a Toys R Us kid. And when I was a little kid, I wanted to be that girl.

Ellery Resort Collection ’15

Kym Ellery Resort Collection '15 (1)

Kym Ellery Resort Collection '15 (2)

Kym Ellery Resort Collection '15 (3)

I’m really loving WA designer Kym Ellery’s Resort Collection ’15. It’s a mix of the shapes I love the most – elegant, flowing drapes and artsy structured silhouettes. Her fabrics look absolutely gorgeous, like something you could slip on easily and luxuriate in. Perfect for an Australian winter!

To find out more, check out Premiere, a film by Patrick Pearse about Kym Ellery and in particular her debut as the third Australian designer to be invited to showcase at Paris Fashion Week in 20 years. Not too shabby!

Inspiration: Believe in Yourself

Believe in Yourself

Believe in yourself.

Believe in your dreams.

Believe in your abilities.

Because if you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will.

But if you believe if yourself, the strength and conviction of your courage and passion will win others over. They will see the fire in you that makes you special because you have lit and nurtured that flame in your darkest hours. They will see you standing tall in the face of failure and doubt because your belief will keep your determination and resilience alive until the day you achieve your goals and dreams and success.

Always, always, always. Believe in yourself.

x

The Salonniere.

Week in Training (July 21st to 27th)

Flame Tree Flowers

A little while back I took this photo on one of my runs of some June winter buds ready to blossom. Well, they’ve finally bloomed into these spectacular red flowers, adding a show of colour to my usual running trails.

Erythrina Flower READ MORE

Author Spotlight – China Mieville

China Mieville Books

Image via BLDGBLOG

Human scientists in love with bug-headed kephri women; alien species who communicate in a language  that doesn’t comprehend abstract concepts; sidekicks who must step in to save the world in place of the Chosen One; trains folk who ride the sea rails in search of harpooning giant moles, and invaders from the other side of the mirror – they’re all part of China Mieville’s imaginarium.

It’s always a little hard to pin China Mieville down. READ MORE

Essay on Regret: Experiencing regret, learning from it and moving on

Jasper Johns Regrets

Untitled by Jasper Johns; part of the Jasper Johns: Regrets exhibition at MoMA

Whenever I think of regret, I think of The Last Unicorn, in which the protagonist, a unicorn, is magically transformed into a human girl and learns the meaning of regret, an emotion unicorns are not familiar with. As a child, I was sad to think that not only would the unicorn now know the bitter taste of regret, she might also face rejection from her own kind because of it. READ MORE

Week in Training (July 14th to 20th)

Swan River Wall

I used my Thursday walk to as an opportunity to practise my newfound photography skills by taking some pics by the river. It was rainy all week, but it fined up on Thursday and the light was great! I’m still pretty shy about taking photos in public (I always imagine I look like the worst kind of tourist). I need to stop worrying so much about what other people think!

I also saw these swans romancing each other on the river.

Swan Hearts READ MORE

Inspiration: Do What You Love

Do What You Love

Over the weekend, I read an article in The Australian Financial Review by Alexandra Tselios about the way we approach our work and set boundaries between work and other areas of our lives. The first few paragraphs in particular caught my eye as Tselios wrote about the inevitable ‘Happy Friday’, ‘Happy Hump Day’ and ‘Ugh, it’s Monday!’ comments we hear each week.

“I really don’t understand the disappointment felt when Sunday night comes to an end,” Tselios wrote. “Similarly, Fridays don’t really mean ‘countdown till wine-o’clock’ for me, it is simply another part of my week; and being a grown-up, I can technically have a glass of wine any time I like. Do I feel anxious about Mondays? No. Do I feel overly excited about Friday 5pm? No.”

A little further down in the article, Tselios wrote a sentence which resonated particularly deeply with me:

“It seems a shame that emotions and mood can be determined simply by what day it is, especially as each new day is inevitable and out of our control.”

I  agree wholeheartedly with her. READ MORE

The Festival of Dangerous Ideas and Plato at the Googleplex

Plato and Aristotle

I was excited to hear the Festival of Dangerous Ideas is on this year again. The name alone has an instant charm to it and a definite air of intrigue! And when I saw the lineup of events and guests at this year’s festival, I was even more excited.

Salman Rushdie, for one, will be attending and speaking about the freedom to write. Other panels and events that piqued my interest included Human Existence Doesn’t Matter (And What Is It Anyhow?), How Many Dangerous Ideas Can One Person Have?, Women are Sexual Predators, a panel on whether our advances in science and technology are threatening our existence and Bradley Garrett on embracing the idea of exploring an ‘unsafe’ city and of making our own adventures in a ‘city within a city’ that avoids today’s tendency towards cotton wool safety culture. READ MORE