By Sophie Pillsbury
Ever since I was a little girl, when I would write research papers, my teachers would write on my paper “too much voice—this needs to be professional.” I didn’t understand how to write without having a voice because it just happened without me thinking about it. I think this stemmed from beginning my writing journey through journaling. I began writing in strictly my voice. This was how I laid the groundwork for the kind of writer I am today, and having teachers say I needed to get rid of this voice felt foreign to me.
This is not an advocacy for how to get rid of this voice in order to sound academic, knowledgeable, or superior; this is instead a piece of writing that urges you to maintain that voice even in the most academic of writing—even in the places where you feel like having your voice show through your writing is not warranted. And for those of you that feel you have not yet found that voice, I will also be providing suggestions for that as well.
The first tip I have for finding that writing voice is to free write. If you have never done this before, it consists of just writing for a given amount of time (maybe start with two or three minutes) and writing whatever comes to your mind—make sure to keep your pen on the paper. After you have done this, read what you’ve written out loud to yourself. Does your writing sound natural? Does it sound like you? If it doesn’t, find the places that feel forced or unnatural. Find the places that do sound like you. What do these particular places have in common? What about these writing moments makes them most like you? For me, a free write is very similar to my journal writing. I am often just writing and not worrying about grammar, sentence structure, or what other people will think. All of these things can take away from that natural voice.
The next thing to consider is whom you are writing for. Who is your audience? Now, for those moments when you are writing something highly academic and your audience is members of academia and you are panicking because “HOW CAN I MAINTAIN MY VOICE AND STILL SOUND FORMAL?” remember that even in the most academic of writing, people still want to be engaged in a way that lets them know who is communicating with them. For me, when I am reading something highly formal, it can often seem like the writing is very distant from the writer. This is no fun for anyone to read—even the most highly academic person.
The most important tip that helps me most when writing is to not think too hard about it all at once. It is very difficult to write exactly what you want on the first try. But it can be even more difficult if, while you are writing, you are judging everything you write. This can completely eradicate your voice. Imagine if every time you tried on a new outfit, you said you hated it before you even allowed yourself to wear it out for a little bit. Try different things with your voice, but most importantly, be accepting of your writing voice in whatever stage you’re at.
I personally believe that what sets writers apart is their voice. When you are writing, ideally you are sharing an idea, advocating for a movement of sorts, or in some way hoping a reader will understand what you are arguing. None of these can be accomplished successfully with a lack of writer’s voice. Write it out, be proud of what you have to say, and feel comfortable wearing funky socks underneath your professional slacks once in a while.
Photo: WORDPRESS: https://www.yourtango.com/2016285660/people-who-wear-crazy-socks-are-smart-revolutionary