Voice

I recently wrote a letter that was of a fairly serious nature and the responses that I received- all of which were very positive- really got me thinking about the concept of the author’s voice.

There’s a particular voice that I use when I write. That voice is not the same voice I use when speaking. The phrases, words and concepts flow so much faster when I’m talking. The sentences, grammar and structure is pretty disjointed. If I were to read a transcription of my conversations, I’d be pretty embarrassed.

The written word is different from the spoken word in so many ways. You can’t really take back the things you say out loud. Conversely, when you write, there’s a chance for a thought to get out and breath a little without being revealed to the world before it’s found just the right place in a more complete concept.

When I recieved the responses to the aforementioned letter and then read my own letter, situated below the reply, it was profound. For just a moment, it was as though I was the reader and not the author. It didn’t sound like the “me” that had formulated those ideas and carefully chosen each word to say just what needed to be said and nothing more. Missing, was the doubt that lived in the few choice words that I removed before pressing send.

Just last week I reread an interview with a prominent internet writer that I really admire. He had this to say about voice-

Early on, I had to think about my “voice”. I was conscious of my style. Now, not so much — I “just write”, and the style seems to come naturally. Part of that is that you get used to anything over time, but a bigger part is that the style changed slowly over time — I kept tweaking it until I found the perfect pitch, at which point it became something I didn’t have to think about to achieve. Put another way: early on, I had to concentrate both on what I was saying and how was I saying it. Now I just concentrate on what I’m saying.

This really resonates with me. The voices that mean the most to me as a reader are unusually focused. The topics engaged by a writer may be even more defining than the words. This isn’t only true for writers.

Artists choose the subject and the medium. Software folks choose a problem (or type of problem) and then build for that space on a specific platform. Bankers and Financial Advisors build a portfolio of a certain type of client by focusing on industries and specialties.

Working consistently in an area of expertise brings credibility to your work and allows you to cut through distractions and filler. Intentionality in both words, and topic is a good start if you are aiming for excellence as a writer.

When you have developed a consistent, credible, defining voice, you don’t have to say a whole lot to get your point across.