How to find your writing voice

Think about writing like making a collage.

A collage is a bunch of scraps pulled together to create one whole piece of art. You can see all the individual parts in there, but they are presented together as one. 

Think about writing like that.

When you write, you are choosing to put together specific thoughts, images, words and metaphors to create one whole piece. You can choose from thousands of words, examples, and descriptions. It is your job, as the writer, to select the most compelling and important scraps from the pile and piece them all together to create something new.

This is the best way to write uniquely. If everyone got the same pile of scraps and had to make a piece of art, no two would be the same. Some might look similar, but they would all be unique because the makers chose different combinations of pieces to illustrate their points.

When you are writing an essay or a story (or even a blog post) you must start out by kneeling at that pile. This is where some people get overwhelmed. There is SO MUCH in the pile; how can you ever choose?

Here is the thing: you can always throw something back into the pile if it doesn’t work out.

So, to begin, choose a couple of things that stand out to you and see what they look like together.

That little figurine that has been at your grandma’s place since forever and some thoughts about living slower? How can you piece that together?

Feeling like a failure and overhearing a weird phone conversation in line at the grocery store? How can you piece that together?

Way too many things on your to-do list and an interesting sign you saw this morning? How can you piece those things together?

The pile is all around you and your job, as the writer, is to pay attention and to collect the scraps and snippets and stories scattered everywhere. Take literal notes on life, keep that list in your phone or notebook, and revisit it when you need ideas. It is your job to make unique pairings. Unique pairings plus your own personal perspective and the style you tend to write in (poetic, conversational, academic) equals your voice. 

Don’t worry about forcing your voice. It will naturally evolve as you write more. Focus, instead, on assembling stories that compel you based on what you see and feel. Write them out naturally, without reaching for a style you think you “should” emulate. Keep doing that.

There’s your voice.

(Photo by fotografierende on Unsplash)

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