We've Got Voice!

Yesterday's post was about Branding, and I was ecstatic with the wonderful and thought-provoking comments my readers left for me. Now you know why I call my Followers "Super Cool People" because they truly are. :-)

We've talked about Voice being elusive or hard to define. It's like being told to draw a picture without using outlines. Doable? Yes. Hard? Extremely.

We've established that VOICE = BRAND. That's it. No gimmicks. Who you ARE is what your Voice looks like, if we must pin this down. Who you are--your personality, your quirks, your perceptions, how you interpret your environment, your experiences, your childhood, the influences you've come across or have given, your pain, sorrows, griefs, your happiness--all of these wonderful (and even the not-so-wonderful) things trickle into your writing, your thoughts, your interactions with other people whether you are conscious of this or not. It is, in essence, your VOICE.

Let's be visual. Take a look at this picture:

File:Van Gogh - Starry Night - Google Art Project.jpg
Source: Wikimedia Commons
I don't think I even need to tell you who drew this; you already know the answer. And then if you were to see this next piece of art, you'd immediately think that the artist who drew the first picture made this one too:
File:Portrait of Dr. Gachet.jpg
Source: Wikimedia Commons
Do you SEE now? Do you see how Voice inherently exists, that it is INDEED inside of us, and if we were all painters, we would reproduce works of art that are uniquely our own as Van Gogh did?

The bottom line is this: BE YOURSELF. Be true to who you are, for that is your Voice, my friend. We don't need to pretend to write like J.K Rowling in the hopes that we'll have her successful career. We don't need to be everything to everyone, just to please them. Trust me, it'll burn you out quickly.

Don't fret on trying to have a quantifiable voice. Let your voice come from within.

Any thoughts on this? I'd like to hear what you've got to say.


Sarah said...

I agree with this--I don't think you can force voice, so why try? A very prominent agent once said to me that voice is something you either have or you don't, and that it isn't something you can teach. His opinion, obviously (a pretty educated one, though). But if that's really the case, the only thing you can do is cultivate what you've got rather than trying to imitate someone else. Great post, Cherie!

Chantele Sedgwick said...

What a wonderful post. I had a hard time trying to figure out my "voice", but realized later that it was there the entire time! I think it's part of us, and if we try to be someone else, the reader can definitely tell. Be true to yourself. Write what you love. Don't try to be someone you're not. ;)

Marewolf said...

True dat! Preach on sistah!

I like it. And it's true, that's why I never worry about people "stealing" my ideas. What I do with a concept is going to be completely different from what someone else does.

We are all unique and beautiful snowflakes :P

cherie said...

@Sarah: I like your "cultivate" comment. It's the best thing we can do to progress ourselves...not just in writing but as a person in whole. Cultivation is also education. Learning. Growth. ;)

@Chantele: Wise words!

@Marewolf: Snowflakes--perfect metaphor! You're definitely right--if two people are given characters and plot lines, they'd still end up delivering different flavors of stories.

T.S. Welti said...

There is nothing worse than a writer who creates a false voice to please readers. I think it's lack of confidence that contributes to false voice. I personally believe that the most important trait a writer can possess, and one of the hardest to attain, is confidence.

Anita said...

I love this post! Voice is such an elusive thing, but so important when trying to stand out among the masses of talent out there.

I think the scareiest thing is to have someone trample on your voice early in the learning process of writing. That's why it's so important, as crit partners and beta readers, to learn and understand what voice is and stick to ctitiquing the craft elements such as plot, tension, grammar, etc...

Never touch someone else's voice. They need to be allowed to flourish and find their own path.

Wonderful post, Cherie! Oh, and big fan of Van Gogh. NICE.

Carissa Elg said...

Great post, Cherie! I love this. You lay it out and make it sound so simple. You rock!

Anonymous said...

And ever notice how, when someone imitates a master's style, the results are usually less than spectacular? It's so TEMPTING to copy someone else's voice, especially when we admire them. And this is USEFUL in a way--we learn a lot about writing by imitation. But in the end if you don't find your own voice, your work is going to be kinda flat.

Great post!

Jeana said...

I think you're exactly right--a voice is just who we are--but I also think our voice is also a culmination of all the books we read and love.

Tamara P. said...

Worrying about your Capital-V-Voice is like fretting over what's in fashion for clothing rather than just picking clothes you like that look good on you. :-)

I also paint, and while you could take two of my individual paintings and never guess they were made by the same person, if you put a room full of everything I've painted all together, you do see something.

Jenny Phresh said...

They may tamper with my plot but they shall never steal my voice! Thanks for another great post.

PW.Creighton said...

Exceptional post. Sometimes it really takes an abstract perspective to really see the larger picture of what makes our works particularly unique.Far too often a writer can lose what makes them unique by falling into the well-troden tropes because that is what is successful.

Anonymous said...

Love this, Cherie.
I struggled for quite a long time to be a "people please" type, and you're right, it burned me out.
Although it's a tough idea to accept that some people are going to criticize you, it's easier to deal with when you are truly being yourself.

Julie said...

Hi, Cherie! I just discovered your blog, and I totally love this post. Starry Night is probably my favorite painting, so I love having that included. Wonderful post, it's great to meet you!

cherie said...

Hello everyone! Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. ;)I'm finally home after a long day chaperoning first graders to the farm (school field trip).

@T.S.: You are probably right. A writer should OWN their voice, make it work for them.

@Anita: "Never touch someone else's voice..." So true! Now the thing is, some people confuse Voice with Style. They justify their grammatical errors by saying it is their Style, their Voice. There's a difference.

If people know the difference between Voice and Style, it'd be a whole lot easier giving crits. ;)

@Carissa: Thanks, hun!

@Greenwoman: Well said! A copy is never quite the same as the original.

@Jeana: True. All the books that we've read and all the writing experiences we have had contribute to our Voice. We are molded by our influences.

@Tamara: Wow, a painter! Thank you for your valuable insight.

@Jenny: Ah, no one can ever steal your voice, hun. You are very unique. One of a kind. ;)

@PW: Hi and thanks for the follow! People do have the tendency to write for a trend, not write what they love. Sometimes it works, but the question is: Is it sustainable? It's why it's important to be honest to one's self. Thanks for the input. I checked out your blog and you have wonderful stuff there. =)

@S.B.: It will always be tough to have people criticize you or your work because it's personal. If we keep in mind that opinions are subjective, it'll be easier to deal with the criticisms. We can never please everybody at once. True for writing and for real life. =)

@Julie: Hi and thank you for following my blog. I'm glad you found me! =) I hope you find something worthwhile here. I also love Starry Night. Van Gogh's works are so vividly expressive and passionate.

Dean C. Rich said...

Someone told me that I write exactly as I talk. They can even tell where the voice inflections should be! However, it also has the same drawback. If you haven't heard me speak, then it can get confusing. I just write what that little voice in my head says.

H A R R Y G O A Z said...


Have a super weekend.

Anonymous said...

"BE YOURSELF" ... is prompting me to break out in a song and dance but since I can't do neither I will just say YES you are on it 'sista gurl!'

Melissa Kline said...

Wow! Great post! I totally agree. Being authentic is so powerful and empowering. I am a big fan of following my heart and being true to myself.

Thanks for the lovely comment on my blog! :)


Liz Fichera said...

Probably two of my fave paintings. :-)
Voice is sort of like the porridge: When it's "just right," you know.

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