Writing-Be Yourself; Everyone Else is Already Taken

This week in class we were given an exercise to write about a journey set in a variety of locations. We also had to describe our home town in 3 words. The results were dramatically different. I really enjoyed hearing the range of descriptions and it proved the point that we have all developed our own distinctive writing voice.

Who else in the group would describe his hometown as “infested”? It was such a loaded word (apologises to anyone from Alloa) that it could only belong to one guy and his characteristic way of describing his world view.

This week, we submitted our first assignments and these will be identified by our student number only as per the uni’s guidelines. This is of course only right and fair but pointless really. After spending weeks together, I’d be confident enough to bet my left arm that our lecturer could match up the writing to the person without any names attached to the work. No problemo.

But how do you find your writing voice?

This quest has taken me time and effort. And it’s like my novel- a work in progress!
When I first started writing seriously I didn’t really understand what was meant by finding a voice that worked for me. So I tried to think of it in musical terms and then it became clearer. You couldn’t expect camp as Christmas Johnny from the X Factor to be able to sing Barry White’s, ‘Can’t Get Enough of Your Love Babe’ in his high-pitched voice could you?  Although anyone who’s ever watched the X Factor knows that Louis Walsh’s crap song choices are legendary. Who could forget Wagner bashing bongo drums and trying to sing Ricky Martin’s ‘She Bangs’ last year? My ears are still bleeding! And I wonder if Pat Butcher ever did get her earrings back from him? 
                                    “You made that song your own”- and ruined it for 13 million viewers!

But I digress. So I had to experiment and find a voice that felt right for me. One that suited the story.

Eventually I realised that I was never EVER going to be able to write like Jane Austen or Virginia Woolf however much I tried. I could only write like ME. And here’s another revelation that I finally worked out the hard way… using big words didn’t make my fiction writing read any better. I was trying too hard. And it’s not big or clever to regurgitate the Oxford Dictionary and exhaust a Thesaurus. Using fancy purple prose in fiction is just not my natural style.

Of course a writer needs to be able to create a variety of different voices just as I wouldn’t use the same tone and tempo of voice in a letter of complaint to my bank manager as I would on a holiday postcard to my best pal. But I still need to make sure that I sound sincere and authentic when communicating my message whether it’s, “I wholly object to the exorbitant bank charge” or “the voddy cocktails are amazzzzzing!!!”

Oscar Wilde said, “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” I like to think of myself as very much a ‘what you see is what you get’ type of person but it took me a while to be true to myself in my writing. I’m no longer attempting to fake it to make it on paper. I’m just working hard to be me – a better writer with my own unique voice.