Finding your voice in a noisy world

The world is full of noise

I worry when I write that ‘it has all been done before’.  I mean, with all the googling and yahoo-ing we do now, all the books, and e-books that are published, all the films watched, even the birthday card messages that are printed, is there anywhere really left to go?

It makes writing seem a little futile and despondency can settle in.  But years ago, I read something that realigned my thinking; ok, the idea of boy meets girl falls in love the end might not be original nor are the apocalyptical stories of machines taking over the world (I seem to watching a wealth of films about this at the moment!).

Unique cadences

But the writer’s voice is.

Each time you write/type a word on the page, you are making your own personal mark on the world.  Even when you are emulating a style or genre you favour, the words, the arrangements of sentences, the perceptions that you have are yours and yours alone.

This voice comes from your subconscious – in the same way that we talk differently, have different accents, dialects, have different opinions from others, so our writing voice is different from others.  We may not know why, how, where it comes from (the beauty of the subconscious; it would be so easy if it were conscious!) but it is there.

Unlocking the subconscious

A well known style of writing called the stream of consciousness has been used most famously by many authors such as Virginia Woolf and James Joyce from the early 1900s but it is still a device being used today.

 stream of consciousness is a narrative mode, or device, that seeks to depict the multitudinous thoughts and feelings which pass through the mind.

This is a device that I particularly love – the flow of it becomes so natural for me; it feels unconstrained.  But it doesn’t just have to be confined to narrative – it can be a useful exercise for finding your voice and ‘stretching the envelope’ of your own writing.

I would encourage everyone to try it, whether as a personal journey, part of a back story or as an emerging story.

Just write

As a writing exercise, the rules are simple:

  1.  write
  2. let the writing take you on a journey, don’t try to control it
  3.  do not edit
  4. do not worry about spelling/punctuation/grammar
  5. do not worry about any writing conventions at all
  6. let you pen/keyboard do the work

You might want to limit your time or not, you choose.  I think you will be amazed at what comes back at you – and even if it isn’t a novel that emerges, there may be just one word, sentence, perception that inspires the author in you.

Good luck and enjoy finding your voice!

Free yourself from your internal editor: Thursday’s writing tip

Letting go of the internal editor

Editing and drafting is a vital part of writing; very often the final version of a creative work has only fragments of the first draft!  But knowing this can also block the writing process.

Sometimes when we write, we are very conscious of the process of writing.  We want to paint a picture with our words, we want to develop characters, plot and so on.  But we can’t find the right metaphor or begin and then develop the plot in the right way.   We want to write perfectly first time!

In many ways, our internal editor is a limiting factor, especially in the early stages of writing.

Some of the best first drafts come very suddenly and are written without the internal editor.   You may have a character, or even just a word in your mind when you start.  Or your may just want to write and find that inspiration is a distant memory.

A writing exercise that I have found useful in the past is writing for 15 minutes without editing, stopping or rereading.  I do not look back at what I am writing and I do not let the pen stop moving on the page or the keys hesitate beneath my fingers.   Actually, sometimes, working on paper is better for this as a pen flows more fluidly than a keyboard, however fast you type!

It is important, too, that you do not worry too much about spelling, punctuation or grammar during this time.  It just slows you down!

Write constantly and write quickly and see what comes from that!

What to do if you feel stuck during your 15 minutes?

One way of ‘getting back’ into the flow if you begin to hesitate is to repeat the last word over and over until something moves.  Your mission is to keep writing – remember, you are not writing the next literary work; you are doing an exercise to help your writing!

It may also help for you to know that the work you do will not be seen by anybody but you.  Sometimes, it can pressurise you to think that all writing is for a reading audience.  The work from the exercise is not.  Something may come from it in the future, but this work is just for you!

Happy writing!