Writing Challenge, Day 9: Voice

30 Day Know Thyself Writing Challenge

Day 9: Do you feel that you have found your voice in your writing? Or are you still searching?

This question is difficult for me to answer objectively. It would be like asking a painter “Have you found your technique?” or a fashionista “Have you found your style?” Anything I write has a voice, just like anything a painter paints has technique and any ensemble a fashionista fashions has style. Whether our work has a distinct quality—one that makes it our own—is a matter of opinion. I am too close to my work to see it the way that anyone outside of it would.

Also, I hesitate to answer “yes” to this question because it would imply a kind of stagnancy. A fixation. If work is an extension of the self, then shouldn’t our voices (techniques, styles, etc.) grow to reflect how we ourselves grow as people? If we get comfortable in any one “voice” does that mean that we are shutting ourselves and our writing to change? That certainly would not be my preference.

But then again, when it comes to art or music, for example, we often recognize a work as belonging to a certain artist. When listening to 8tracks the other day I heard a song for the first time and, by combination of sugary sweet voice and electronica, I immediately thought it a new track from The Knife. I looked and was surprised to see that the artist was actually Fever Ray, someone I’d never heard of before. Then I googled Fever Ray. Turns out the group is a branch project of the female singer in The Knife.

Okay. So perhaps all artists (writers, painters, musicians, etc.) do have their own distinct styles—ones that we can recognize them by. But I maintain that as a person grows, so does his or her work. Take Picasso, for example. Scholars classify his work in a number of periods: blue, rose, African, cubist, classic, surreal, etc. He goes through phases, and so do we.

Now, stepping back and looking at what I’ve written, I’m sensing that I may have made a slight detour to launch into this rant. Let me come back to the original question and answer it the simplest way I know how: I don’t know. I think that it takes a lot more work to be able to recognize discrepancies in writing styles and authors’ individual mannerisms than it does to learn and recognize the work styles of, say, a painter. One can eye a Klimt and a Da Vinci and know the difference in an instant. But two blind novels?

I will say this: I use a lot of dashes in my writing. A lot. I don’t know that that gives me any particular style, though. It’s just one small element in my present signature, whatever that may be. Am I still searching for my voice? Absolutely. I’ll never stop.

30 Day Writing Challenge, Day 1: The Knife

Hey Wordaholics,

Today I am starting The 30 Day Know Thyself Writing Challenge put out by Writer’s Relief. They promise hard questions. I promise cool answers. Check back to the Read Room for more, and feel free to chime in!

Also, because it’s the first day of a new month and my life has been lagging in the in-between and otherwise stagnant for too long, I am setting some other 30 Day goals for myself to get things moving:

  1. Run every other day (engage the body, engage the mind).
  2. Spend at least one hour each day researching and planning future / next move options. (I am currently considering: graduate school. Classes & part-time work. Travel. Teaching abroad. A writing course abroad. Working on a vineyard for 6 months to a year, ideally in France. I have a lot to figure out and it’s time to stop letting it intimidate me.)
  3. Freewrite for half an hour each day.

On to the question, then.

30 Day Know Thyself Writing Challenge

Day 1: What do you consider your greatest strength as a writer?

For me every sentence is a struggle. I am forever trying to catch the light of dusk in the lace curtain and on the ivory keys, how the pianist’s pearl earrings danced when she turned her neck, and the way the little girl in the tutu and ballet slippers pressed her red lips together to taste strawberry paint.

What I’ve become good at, after years of over-writing here and missing the mark there, is stepping back from the canvas, looking at it objectively, and then—without wincing—turning on my delicate, sugar-spun details and slashing them when they do not belong. I have learned the mercenary art of taking a knife to my pages.

The Knife: incidentally, a very good band. Check it.