Saturday, February 23

The Importance Of Finding Your Own Voice

The Importance Of Finding Your Own Voice
Kris Rusch has written another awesome, inspirational, post: Out! All of You!

It was just what I needed. Over the past few days I've been getting back into the habit of writing after taking a break for my shoulder to heal and it's been tough.

Ignoring Your Inner Critic

Whenever I sat down to write all sorts of jabbering voices rose up like mushrooms after a rain, each telling me I was writing crap, that I would always write crap, that my crap was so crappy no one would read it.

Of course we have to care what other folks think about our work. After all, we need to pay the rent and eat occasionally. But it's easy to forget that the person we are writing for, first and foremost, is ourselves.

This isn't self-indulgence, it isn't ego. As writers, as creative beings, we need to stretch our creative muscles, we need to grow and continually develop our unique voice.

How do we do this? We write what our souls call us to write, regardless of what anyone else will think about it, regardless of whether anyone else believes what we're doing is valuable, or good, or even remotely sane!

Finding Your Own Creative Voice

In Out! All of you! Kris Rusch writes about finding your creative voice. She says that to have a long-term career, you need to learn to roll with the punches AND "you need to believe in yourself with a fierce passion. You need to know that your vision is the correct vision for you, and then you need to defend it."

Sally Field Fought For Her Creative Voice

Kris Rusch took the title of her piece--Out! All of you!--from a story Sally Field told in this short (4 min) video clip (starts around 2:45) during her interview on Nightline. It's an excellent video and Sally Field is wonderfully charismatic, it's well worth watching.

The point is that Sally Field believed enough in herself, in her artistic voice, to ignore the advice of her agents, her business manager and her husband and go her own way. And it paid off. She was right about herself. She succeeded.

Kris writes:
What disturbs me every teaching season is the way that writers wait for someone to tell them what box they fit in or what box they should go to. Every year, writers tell at least one of us that we need to give them better instructions. If we give better instructions, the writers insist, then they can write what we want them to write, so that we’ll be happy with them.

These writers entirely miss the point. The point isn’t for us to be happy, but for those writers to find their own voice. Sometimes they’ll fail an assignment and have to do it all over again from scratch. Oh, well. All that means is that they have to invest more time into their craft.

But for a certain type of writer, it means that they have screwed up completely, that they’ll never succeed, that they didn’t receive the help they needed to mold themselves into something someone else wanted.

We can’t help those writers. We try not to teach them, because we teach writers to stand on their own, defend their own vision, and become who they want to be, not who they’re told to be. It’s a tougher road to walk, because it means that there’s no one to blame when things go wrong.

Write For Yourself As Well As Others

Yesterday I wrote a 1,600 word short story in about 4 hours. For me that's good. I'll have to do another pass or two but I'm proud of it.

But I'll never, ever, publish it.

Why? Because it has to do with my father's death. It provided we with a way to say goodbye to him and to explore various issues that lingered, like ghosts, after his passing. (I did this as an unofficial response to Chuck Wendig's flash fiction challenge: Write What You Know.)

I wrote for myself, and I learnt something about myself and my writing. It gave me new energy, it invigorated me.

Rather than ask a question today I want to issue my own challenge:

Writing Challenge: Find Your Own Voice

1. Write something for yourself. 

Perhaps, down the road, you'll publish what you've written, but don't write with that in mind. Write something for you. If it will help, here is something Chuck Wendig wrote for his Write What You Know flash fiction challenge:
I want you to grab an event from your life. Then I want you to write about it through a fictional, genre interpretation — changing the event from your life to suit the story you’re telling. So, maybe you write about your first hunting trip between father-and-son, but you reinterpret that as a king taking his youngest out to hunt dragons. Or, you take events from your Prom (“I caught my boyfriend cheating on me in the science lab”) and spin it so that the event happens at the same time a slasher killer is making literal mincemeat of the Prom King and Queen. (Write What You Know)

2. Keep it short, 1,000 words or less

The second part of this challenge is to make it a short piece of 1,000 words or less. (Don't worry if you can't keep it to 1,000 words. I shot for 1,000 words and ended up with 1,600, but that was the shortest story I've written for years and was thrilled.)

Try to finish your piece on or before March 2. If you want to share it, post it on your website or blog and leave the link in a comment, below. If it's too personal to share, I'd still love to hear about your writing experience. :-)

Other articles you might like:

- Write A Novel In A Year, Chuck Wendig's Plan: The Big 350
- Plot, Story and Tension
- Patricia Cornwell Vindicated In Court, Wins 50.9 Million Dollars

Photo credit: "To Beseech Thee" by The Wandering Angel under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.


  1. For the umpteenth time I have to say, “Whudda post, doll…”

    Let’s see… writing as pseudo therapy? Yeah, I get that.

    That was the reason ten months ago, at the age of 53, I sat down to ‘Write That Book’.

    My motivation? To create a world where so many sorrowful yesterdays got fixed. Cross genres in the vein of Rusch? Ohh yeah… Romance, Crime, and Sci-Fi all came into play. What the hell did I know?

    I began the book with pencil and paper behind the wheel of my taxi during down time between calls. When it was time, I brought my netbook to work and started to type. I literally wore out my battery and keyboard over the course of the last year.

    Not knowing a damn thing about structure, the proper use of semi colons, or even the fundamentals of grammar didn’t stop me. I had everything I needed right at hand. ‘On Writing’ by King was the coach I needed to commit to a daily word count seven days a week. Most importantly, I had the baffled love of a hell of a woman, K.D. McLean. She didn’t know if what I was doing was going to go anywhere, all she knew was that I needed to do this. And that was enough for her.

    In sixty days, I produced a 90K word manuscript. The novel ‘Spike’ sits on a shelf in my new office now. It will probably never see the light of day- it’s too close to the heart, y’know? And that’s fine. It was the starting point for a new life for us both.

    K.D. backed me up every step of the way once I started taking the trash out on garbage days. This past summer she decided to take a run at writing. Currently, she and I are putting the finishing touches on our second and third Adult Romance novels. While Spike sits on a shelf, her first novel has made it into the second round of the ABNA contest- who woulda’ thunk it. Based on feedback from reviewers, the second and third novels will be edited by Sarah Nego. Thank God for Google+, that’s how I came across her via this blog that gets checked every day.

    So far we’ve earned less than fifty bucks from selling the first book, and that’s okay. We’re both in awe of how collaborating is such a gift. Working together on this project, hand in glove makes every day a joy. We know we have so much to learn about the craft, and we’re avid students now as well as writers.
    Money aside, our lives are richer than we ever could have imagined. The money will show up. The marketing’s going to be a piece of cake because of the resources on the web we’ve found through this blog. I expect to be parking my cab for keeps in about two years - as opposed to driving till I die.

    1. Wow! Desmond, if your books read anything like your comment I'd say the sky's the limit! And congratulations on writing your first book, Spike, your way.

      "Not knowing a damn thing about structure, the proper use of semi colons, or even the fundamentals of grammar didn’t stop me."

      I read this piece about Quentin Tarantino and the making of Pulp Fiction:
      Apparently Tarantino's first scripts lacked every semblance of grammar but they were still brilliant!

      You've obviously got the writing skills to be a writer and you can tell an inspirational story. I think you might be parking your cab sooner than you think!

      Thanks for your awesome comment. :-)

    2. Mr. Torres, that's an awesome personal story you've shared with us. I admire you for your diligence and fortitude. If others are like me, one day you'll feel that you're writing is brilliant, and then in another day you'll feel unsure of yourself, like the writing is not good enough, or that the story is not good enough. But what matters is to keep moving forward, to resolve those doubts and to better your book and yourself in the process.
      Screw grammar! Stories were never meant for the eyes, but for the ears. We think in language, and we don't actually see language, we hear language. Write for the ear, and an editor will take care of the letters.

      @Ms. Woodward
      Did not know that particular thing about Q. Tarantino. You just made my day with that little tale.

    3. "Screw grammar! Stories were never meant for the eyes, but for the ears. We think in language, and we don't actually see language, we hear language. Write for the ear, and an editor will take care of the letters."

      Yes! I agree. Grammar is there to serve the story, not the other way around. The introduction to "Eats, Shoots and Leaves" gives a short history of the evolution of English grammar that's quite good.

  2. Just wanted to pop in to say a few words of thanks for this blog. It's interesting, inspirational and chock-full of good advice.

    And I'm not even a writer. (Well, professionally.)

    1. Thanks LeberMac! Kind words are much appreciated. :-)

  3. Great post. Thank you.


Because of the number of bots leaving spam I had to prevent anonymous posting. My apologies. I do appreciate each and every comment.