One thing I struggle immensely with when it comes to writing is figuring out my voice. In college your professors will continuously tell you to form your own unique voice when writing papers. Obviously you need to figure out a style that strays away from anything too traditional or bland, but at the same time I could never determine the line between academic/professional and imaginative. My papers never suffered from the conflict, primarily because they’d almost always be a lit analysis which is creative in itself, but when I got into the business realm of writing I realized that maintaining a stylized voice was close to impossible. At least for me.
A good chunk of this realization came from a business and technical writing course that I was required to take.We had to compose memos and newsletters and the more I worked on these assignments the more I began to detest them. The class was still being told to find their voice, but finding yourself in a memo about insurance isn’t the easiest conquest. It only took me three memos to notice that they were all the same; the only difference was filing in the blanks to fit the situation at hand. I felt like I was performing a stage show written by someone who had never cracked a smile in their life. I tried not to sound frigid or distant, but I knew my voice was lost no matter how many revisions I went through. If I put too much personality into it, it was unprofessional. If I didn’t put in enough personality, it was deemed as “cold.” The writing process ending up being a vicious cycle of boredom and mumbled curses.
I think circumstances like business and technical writing are why I gravitate towards creative fiction. At least with fiction I can design a criteria that fits the demands of the story. Almost everything I write is from a first person point of view which means I open up word and let that character’s thoughts run wild without supervision. I tend to open up a path during the writing process and follow the white rabbit even if it takes me nowhere monumental. I’m not overly thrilled about having a set of guidelines that tell me I have to turn left at the next stop sign and again at the next when I’d rather explore on my own. When I write fiction I let the creative voice paint over every word I type and I let it develop on its own. There’s never a script I’m trying to recite – just a character attempting to speak. It’s possible that authors like Faulkner and Pynchon have influenced me more than I can tell, but I like to grab hold of the human conscious in my stories and have those internal thoughts either go on a rampage or take a peaceful stroll; whatever they feel like that day.
I do the same with this blog; I start a post with a basic concept and allow myself to expand on it as I write. I love watching where the mind goes all on it’s own. That’s why I love creative writing so much. As for voice, I’m sure one day I’ll manage a decent balance between personality and professionalism. For right now I’d rather admire and improve the voice in my fiction because, honestly, those characters a lot more interesting than me.
Discovering your creative, professional, academic, writing voice in general will always be more of as struggle from some of us, but not impossible. A voice in writing is your mental monologue making its debut onto paper. Even if you have to follow a tight script, hints of your personality will surface no matter how well you can name facts and list out the benefits of car insurance. It’s not that we don’t have a voice to begin with it, it’s that it takes us a while to recognize it and tap into that potential. This is true no matter what type of piece you’re writing because fiction demands voice just as much as technical writing. Echoes of yourself are going to be in the voice of the characters you create, because you can’t escape yourself. And much like technical writing, there is a time and place to let your personality take center stage. You have the scavenge for the voice that fits your piece, but you can’t find it if you keep your writing style on a tight leash. I’m sure even people reading a letter about their car company want paragraphs with a little pizazz to prevent them from sailing away into the unforgiving lands of the mundane.
While recognizing voice can be a frustrating journey of dead ends, I want to keep in mind that sometimes it’s best to set your thoughts free and see what comes of it. If I can find an honest voice in creative fiction through that method then I can do the same if I ever need to dive into the technical realm of writing again. Somewhere in that tangled mess of thoughts and scripts is the ideal voice waiting to audition.