For years now, I have struggled with “finding my voice” as a writer–something I know I have to achieve before I can seriously pursue writing full-time, but something that has caused me endless frustration. I’ve read all the blog posts and articles about the 10,000 hour rule, the principle that you have to practice something for at least 10,000 hours before you truly become an expert (or, applied directly to writing, before you truly find your voice), and sometimes it feels like I’ve spent far more than the requisite 10,000 hours banging out words to find my voice, although I know I really haven’t. Even considering all the practice I have had, I still struggle with consistency, constantly grasping for my “one, true voice” in my writing–and I run up against a brick wall over and over again.
I’ve had various incarnations of blogs over the past 6-8 years, each one starting out with what felt like a unique perspective, but each eventually abandoned when I realized that yet again, I had not “found my voice” with whatever particular emphasis I had chosen for that current blog. The problem, I have discovered, is that even though I know that I do have (somewhere) my own unique voice, I also have various and distinct tones of that voice, which I think has caused many of my struggles. Instead of allowing myself some leeway in my writing, making way for experiments with different styles and formats, I tried to box myself in with one particular, specific tone for every single post. I’m beginning to see how this unrealistic limitation brought each blog to its untimely but inevitable demise.
Because you see, the truth is that I actually do have several different “voices” in real life. When I spend time with my sister, for example, I tend to bounce back and forth between serious conversations and absolute silliness with her; after all, she is one of the few people who has known me for her whole life and who knows me perhaps better than anyone other than my husband. If I wrote the way I talk to her, I would end up with a mix of insightful and deep conversations, juxtaposed against wild and hysterical goofiness. Those two extremes simply sum up our relationship, which would not have the same dynamic without a mix of both “voices” in our interactions together.
Similarly, my conversations with my husband include both deep and reflective conversations where we discuss our thoughts and dreams and plans together, as well as a healthy dose of silliness, directly resulting from the freedom and lack of inhibition that comes as a joyful aspect of the marriage relationship.
I am learning, then, that my writing does not always have to reflect the same tone in every single post. I can still write in my own voice without writing every word in an identical style. Sometimes I sit down at my keyboard in a deeply contemplative mood, and the words that pour from my fingers will reflect that mood. Other days, though, I might be experiencing an entertaining amount of playfulness, and I have to learn that it will not negatively impact my writing voice if my words reflect a playful mood for that day’s writing. It doesn’t make me any less consistent in the overall quality of my writing. I don’t “break” from my voice simply by embracing different inflections from one day to the next.
I suppose this goes hand in hand with my ongoing struggles with perfectionism and the compulsion I constantly fight to want my writing to be perfect before I find myself willing to release it to the world. At the very start of my new blog here, I resolved to embrace the concept of permanent beta, working to let go of my perfectionist tendencies and focusing instead on creating solid content rather than perfect content that would never surface and would keep me in a state of constant paralysis rather than consistently posting.
I have focused on various voices over the course of my blogging “career” thus far, some far more formal than others, but I have learned that my personality encompasses both formal and informal voices, and my writing will inevitably reflect this–and shockingly, that is really okay with me now. Instead of stifling myself in my attempts to maintain a “consistent” and “professional” voice, I have resolved to simply write with my own voice, whether it feels sophisticated or not; after all, only then will my writing remain genuine, and only then will I free myself to continue creating content that inspires me (and hopefully my readers as well!), rather than obsessing over the tone and whether or not I have effectively “found my voice.”