A writers voice is simple to define but elusive to find. The real great writers, the ones that have a lasting place in this business are the ones that capture it day-after-day, story-after-story and still leave you coming back for more.
Voice is a confluence of style, tone and diction that is unique to you. It’s why you can pick a random passage from Old Man and the Sea not knowing who wrote it and know that you’re reading Ernest Hemmingway.
How you develop a voice is really not that hard, the problem is actually doing it requires a lot of work that many would-be authors aren’t willing to do. On a practical level it requires you write reams of pages and on an emotional level you have to be willing to plumb the depths of your soul time- after-time until you are comfortable with what’s there.
Some writers find the blank page very scary, but I embrace it and often take solace in it. Writing is a healthy emotional release that I’ve come to rely on in some of the darkest moments in my life. Often emotional moments in life are measured in tears or bursts of anger, but for me it’s measured in blank ink and word counts. Emotions are given form on the page in metaphors and similies and distilled into sentences and paragraphs until I can say that it is off my chest.
You find a voice in those moment you hold up that mirror and figure out what’s deep inside. To find it consistently means “going there” over and over again until you can call upon it at will. When I write matters of grammar and mechanics are so far from my mind and really, writing produced in that fashion sounds mechanical and stilted. Not to say you should master those things, but it isn’t the most important thing when it comes to the act of writing something that is compelling.
The soul of a story is comes from the most obvious place— you.
No other person thinks and talks like you and really, no other person can write like you either. The question is how much work are you willing to put in to figure out exactly who “you” are.
Good writing is born in a place of honesty and good writers spend their lives being honest with themselves. That may be hard to believe, but it’s the reason why people take their writing so personally. People get their feelings hurt at workshops because getting critiqued is akin to making a judgement on them as a person.
This may sound weird, but you have every right to take it personal. That is you and if you put one iota of yourself into producing something then it will sting to hear somebody tear it down. It’s about being comfortable enough with who you are and the writing you’ve created to say “ok, I’m willing to improve my writing and willing to improve myself no matter how much it hurts.”
It takes a strong person to overcome that fear and write for an audience just once and it takes a person of character to do this over and over again.