Finding Your Writing Voice
Finding my voice in writing and in painting was no easy task. It came upon me slowly, quietly, and at times conflicted. When I began writing my memoir I made the decision that on that particular day I would sit and begin writing about some of my favorite memories; about the happy places I would often find refuge in. The most often asked question I now am asked is how long it took me to write my book, or was it hard to write a book.
That all goes back to my initial statement about finding my voice or better stated, trusting that I had found my voice. It was easy for me to write. I have been writing for a long time. However, once you read your private thoughts to someone else, fear of all sorts begins to take over. Or, at least it did for me. Sure, my husband would most probably like it, and my very closest friends would love hearing about my childhood, but would the world feel the same. There was always an inner critic, an inner naysayer trying to chip away at my feelings of accomplishment.
It became even more complicated when my twenty-two short stories were complete. I had to go through the nervousness of wondering what those helping with the editing would think. Would they try and change my voice, try to change ME. To say I was lucky picking the right persons for my initial editing is a gross understatement. I was blessed by their enthusiasm and above all else, was encouraged to NOT change my voice, who I am, or how I express myself.
Being true to myself has always been a huge challenge since I have always been a “pleaser”, trying to make everyone happy. Well in writing, as far as I’m concerned, and especially in writing memoir, you can just throw that sentiment out the window. The person writing has to be secure and happy with themselves in what they have written. Keeping our own voices intact is what makes everything REAL. Trying to be someone else, or write how someone else thinks you should be writing won’t work in the long run.
For me, in my writing life and in my life as a painter, I must set aside the fear of what others will think and constantly remind myself to say, “Well Patricia, are YOU happy with it?” If the answer is yes, then the story is complete and the canvas can be signed. Along this topic, I found a great article on the website of Marion Roach Smith. The article goes into detail about how author Nancy Sharp found her voice.
Writing Lessons: The Steps To Finding Your Writing Voice & Structure
by Nancy Sharp
Five years ago I sat down to write a memoir about losing my young husband Brett to cancer and then unexpectedly finding love again with a widower halfway across the country. Well, actually, my new husband Steve and I started to jot this journey together since he’d had a similar experience of loss and single parenting. The book wasn’t our idea. Not at first. It’s just that every stage of our relationship—from the engagement, to the honeymoon, to being newlyweds—people kept talking about the hopefulness of our story and how it ought to be a book (or a movie). Eventually we were intrigued enough to map an outline and begin writing. Our vision was to alternate voices, “mine” and “his,” until we wove our individual stories together at the end.
This isn’t a bad premise. Just a challenging one we learned because our voices were entirely different. At the time Steve was a TV news anchor and reporter. He had a marvelous ability to write visually (read: short scenes), but all those years of traditional journalism training made it tricky for him to access his emotions. That wasn’t his style, nor did he feel comfortable exposing his feelings. My own literary voice was still emerging but it was clear that my style was contrary: I sometimes wrote long sentences; I used metaphor; I wrote reflectively; I was unafraid to convey sadness and fear on the page. With coaching, we might have been able to pull such a book off. But the real stumbling block was Steve; he simply didn’t want to do it.