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Confidence in my voice

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I have recently been reading Contact, by Carl Sagan. So far it is an excellent science fiction story (that leans heavily on the science end of the spectrum), and I am enjoying it immensely. Plus, the “voice” of the author has given me some confidence in my own style of writing.

Although I feel very comfortable with my writing voice during the act of putting pixels to.. er.. pixels I guess, I have often wondered how other people perceive it. I am just as paranoid as the next writer it seems. I have for a long time had the sneaking suspicion that my writing style is… not boring as such, but lacks a certain dynamism. There are very few jokes aside from the dry observational variety, and I sometimes feel I present situations rather plainly. That is as best as I can put it, although you will have the opportunity to judge for yourselves eventually of course (a whole new can of paranoid worms there).

Now, I don’t mean this to be in any way detrimental to Carl Sagan’s writing, which as I mentioned, I am thoroughly enjoying. But I found some relief in knowing that if anything his style of writing was “dryer” than mine. Again, I don’t mean to be critical, and perhaps “dry” is the wrong word to begin with. This is not a situation where I think, “well, his writing is worse than mine, and he got published”. It’s more a case of, “his writing is perhaps plainer, more dry than mine, but it is still interesting to read”. Very much so in fact.

Interesting does not sound like much of a compliment, I’ll grant you, and it perhaps represents a kind of minimum requirement of a text for most people. However, being interesting is very important to me when it comes to the creative endeavors of others. A piece of music does not have to be emotive, or have clever lyrics, or even be pleasant to the ear, for example. But it must be interesting; it must have something about it that keeps me listening. The same goes for visual art or written text.

So, to find another author who exhibits some of the traits that I worry about in my own style, and that I still find interesting to read, and want to read more of, is a great source of reassurance. I guess the lesson is to trust your own style. I often will read something and really love the voice of the author. Something in me tells me I could never write like that. And, of course, that will be true for a great many authors I read. But, perhaps the aim of writing like an admired author is something of a red herring anyway. After all, your aim should never be to write like them, but to write like yourself. That is what your “voice” is all about.

I think you should be less concerned with what other people think of your writing, and be more worried about what you think of it. Do you like it when you write it, and later, when you read it back? Worrying about other people will come later, of course, and at some point you may lose the objectivity that tells you what you’ve written is great (after going through the fifth draft of a chapter, for example), but remember, it’s your voice, and if you find it interesting, chances are someone else will.

Who here is confident about their writing voice, and why? What gave you that confidence?