One of the first lessons taught in writing, shortly after grammar and structure, is finding your voice. I’ve always been a bit confused by this because I just figured I already had my “voice.” I Write, therefore I have Voice. Apparently, this is not the case.
Voice is characterized by those qualities and elements an author puts into her writing which is distinctly hers, unique to her stories. It’s sort of like an extra fingerprint for an author. The difference is that the author is the one who creates this voice as she develops her writing. Just because I own a computer and can type and find myself spewing out seemingly witty stories, does not mean I have found or developed my own unique fingerprint.
Stop for a moment and look closely at one of your fingertips. Your fingerprint is complex. It is subtle. It is also quite uniform. The swirls and lines are all part of a larger picture. It is not random nor is it sloppy. It is neat and tells clearly who that finger belongs to.
The same is surely true for a writer’s voice. But instead of being created with that gloriously individual fingerprint, as a writer I must now figure out how to make that fingerprint my own. Complexity requires great thought and effort. Subtlety is not so easy either. Uniformity, a clear purpose, neat and orderly? These are not qualities that are natural to my life! How in the world am I to simply create a fingerprint for my writing that is all those things?
Practice. Only God got it right the first time. I, on the other hand, befuddled by my sinful nature, will have to practice. And if you join me on this journey, I hope you will see growth and eventually see uniformity, complexity, subtlety, purpose and order.
If not…well, I wont’ think about “if not.” I am determined to reveal my 11th fingerprint…My Voice.
One Reply to “Fingerprints”
I’m reading Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones again. She talks a lot about Voice and finding your true, original, intelligent voice. If you haven’t read it in a while (or at all), I highly recommend it. It’s my favorite inspirational writing book and well worth an annual (or more frequent if you are slow to inspire, like me) reading.