Human beings are complex and, based on our media portrayals, writers are even more complex than most.
Oh, yes, you know how it goes. We brood, we wax poetic, we turn our complexes into novels and our yearnings into…business copy? Well, it is the modern age, after all.
For all our complexity, I find it strange that we’re so often told to simplify. To narrow down, to niche — to take all of our glorious, deafening, out-of-tune notes and streamline them into something cohesive. A brand, perhaps, or a style.
To that, I say: NONSENSE.
If you’ve followed me at all, by now you must know that I, in all my glory, am a complete and utter disaster. Branding gurus see me coming and sh** their pants. A voice? As in one single, tremulous, paltry writing voice? Hilarious!
I don’t limit myself, and neither should you. You don’t need to “find your voice” as a writer: you need to thoroughly enjoy every single one of the voices that’s already clamoring away inside of you.
Let me elaborate…
What Is A Writing Voice, Anyway? And Other Smart-Sounding Things That Are Probably Fake
On a basic, semantic level, it’s sort of weird for people to tell you, a writer, to develop a “voice.” I mean, the whole point of writing is that you hear it in your head, right? Not out loud.
Voices are for opera singers or those weird guys who spend their free time making creepy Vampire Daddy ASMR Videos on YouTube (do not click that link unless you are very drunk and/or are fully prepared to despise humanity forevermore).
Writers do not have voices — we occupy them. Lots and lots of them, actually, which is why so many of us tend to write stories with multiple characters in them. It’s why we often work for multiple clients at the same time and pretend to be all of them through daily articles and blogs.
We like being multiple people all at once. It’s fun. People who tell you to craft a single, all-encompassing writer’s voice might as well be telling you to switch careers.
I view a lot of writing advice with this same skepticism, as I’m sure many of you can understand. “You need a cohesive brand,” they say, “an image, a style that sets you apart, something that makes people know that they’re reading you.”
That’s all well and good, but why does that have to be so…limiting? Having a hundred voices doesn't make you less of a writer, so long as every one of them remains an iteration of you.
(Oh, and as long as you don’t literally start hearing them. In that case, you probably need some sort of prescription pill, and we can revisit the whole writing thing later.)
Having Lots Of Writing Voices Is Better For Your Career, Despite What You Might Have Heard
This heading is a bold claim, I know. Who am I to challenge so much well-intended advice from marketing experts and writing coaches all across the internet?
Well, I’m not a marketing guru or a coach, for one thing. I’m a writer. A full-time one who’s making a sustainable, growing income from my work each and every month. I like to think that counts for something.
This isn’t to say that all the writing advice out there is bad, or that mine is always good. Now that would be a stretch. But as usual, I’m going to caution you about following in the vein of popular tips and self-help super-guides in our little writing world.
A lot of them are meant to grant you a kind of predictable safety net, an expectation that writing — the identity of writer — is something that can be “achieved” via a particular formula. On certain days I might sigh at this and say, “if only!” On other days I’d say, “thank God it’s not that simple.”
And on all days I would tell you that this is simply not that kind of job, kid. You cannot be boxed in as a writer, or you will fail. You can’t streamline your identity, your style, your success — and even if you try, none of it will ever match your expectations.
Allowing yourself to have numerous “voices” is simply an admission of reality. The reality of being a writer, whether professionally or “just in your free time.”
Voices show themselves at will. One article may speak in a humorous tone because sometimes being a writer is a funny thing. The next day might see you writing long, romantic chapters in a book, with pink cheeks and an excited…heart.
Another day might see you writing in hushed and reverent tones because there are subjects that inspire awe in you, and your words are bound to reflect this truth.
A long-lasting writing career is an honest one, an adaptable one, and one that grants you the space to learn and speak in multitudes. If a specific style emerges from that, it will be the result of time and perception — but never limit yourself in the pursuit of what should only grow organically.
If You Were Meant To Have Once Voice, You Wouldn’t Be A Writer In The First Place
I’m of the humble opinion that writers aren’t made but born — at least on a core level. Not all writers become Writers, of course, but all of us share a certain propensity for being…well, a lot.
A lot of person. A lot of self. It’s kind of our M.O. We have so much self within us, we can’t contain it. We have to unleash any number of “extra” personalities out onto the page, the chapter, or into the digital underworld.
This is part of what makes us writers. It’s this boundlessness that defines us, whether we express it through freelance blog posts, for-hire social media captions, or Great American Novels that get debated in graduate classes.
When we write, we are honoring the multitudes inside of us. We are engaging in our own innate boundlessness, and we are giving words to the many, many voices that sing out from our sentences whenever they have the chance.
So why attempt to limit what was never meant to be limited in the first place? You are a writer, so accept the many voices you were born with. Don’t favor any one of them for too long, and never allow one silky, branded voice to eat up all the others.
When people tell you to find your voice, I find that the best answer is a smile, a wink, and a confidently spoken “which one?” (Okay, maybe you can forego the wink. That’s kind of creepy.)
All In All, The Quieting-Down Comes Before The Fall
Of all the sins a writer can commit, being quiet is the most heinous one of all. We are the polar opposite of silence, even if our words aren’t shouted but rather heard in the confines of readers’ heads.
Exercising multiple voices under one name is a courageous act, and sometimes people will criticize you for it. But if you ignore those critics, you’ll find that the truly valuable readers can hear you in every iteration you give a voice to.
Write in as many voices as you feel calling out inside of you. Write in one voice today, another tomorrow, and two more the day after that. Write in melancholy tones, in joyful tones, in professional tones.
Be a cacophony so that no one — not even you — can ever box in your potential as an artist. No niche can contain you, and no single voice can speak for all of the wonder that is you. You have too many words inside of you for one voice to handle. Don’t ask your true self to narrow itself down — you’ll only be doing your career, and the world, a disfavor.
If you want to cultivate your voice as a writer, take my advice. Expand that one vein into a network of them, and give expression to every tone, mood, note, and resonance that occurs to you.
And if the sounds that emerge begin to share a certain, familiar something? That’s how you’ll begin to change the world, Writer.