I staggered through my first “creative writing” teaching this weekend with the Guardian Masterclass series — staggered because I was less than well.  Much less than well. To all my lovely students, apologies in advance if I managed to impart a horrible cold along with my bucket of wisdom.

I was humbled by the quality of my students, and had the reaction I’ve always worried about having if I set out to teach people about writing, mainly, what do I know? I can do it (sometimes) but what exactly do I KNOW about doing it?

For those with an attention span shorter than fourteen hours, here’s a precis of the very few things I do know:

  1. Voice is not about getting published. Or selling books. Or thinking about the market. Or writing chick-lit or fantasy or literary fiction the way you think it should be written.
  2. It’s about finding out who you are, how your reactions to life are different from anyone else’s, and what you have to say that isn’t like anyone else.
  3. The unique way that you see and tell a story (or ride a horse or dance Swan Lake) is the expression of your Voice. As the Talmud says, We do not see things as they are, we see them as WE are.
  4. You need confidence and self-knowledge to speak in your own Voice.
  5. The only real block to writing truthfully is being unable to access what is in your head and heart.
  6. A distinctive Voice will not just help you write well. It will help you do anything at all well.
Everything else (with the possible exception of, um, genuine talent) is window dressing.


13 thoughts on “How To Find A Voice

  1. Caroline Coxon 7 years ago

    Damn, I needn’t have taken notes.

    Hope you’re feeling VERY much better today and have had the chance to rest.

    I’m not gooing to say anything else for fear of being crawly.


    1. Meg Rosoff 7 years ago

      Didn’t I mention the importance of shameless flattery? Oh, and spelling?

  2. Antony John 7 years ago

    I love this list, not least because I’m always being asked to explain “voice” and it’s really tricky. The horse riding / ballet dancing analogy is spot on, and point #5 ought to be recited as a mantra before writing every day. Such an obvious thing, really, but sometimes easy to forget (especially when there’s an impending deadline, it seems).

  3. sharon creech 7 years ago

    So well said. I hear your ‘voice.’

  4. Peter Bryenton 7 years ago

    Thanks Meg & well done.

    When we choose to teach a subject, it’s then that we learn even more about it. And we learn something new about ourselves at the same time.

  5. Jan Carr 7 years ago

    Yes Yes Yes
    Love that list.
    I would have very much liked to have been there, germs and all.
    (Hope you’re feeling better)

  6. Kirsten Baron 7 years ago

    I might steal your list and replace a few words to make it fit with art teaching. I struggle to find the right equivalent for ‘voice’ in art terms though, always – ‘style’ is too superficial. Perhaps it needs to be called visual voice.

    1. Meg Rosoff 7 years ago

      Yes, voice is a very misleading term. But I had my class do some life drawing and the expressions of “voice” in the different line and style of each drawing was SO dramatic.

  7. Maria 7 years ago

    Meg – unrelated to the above post, but, I just finished reading There Is No Dog, and I wanted to say, it’s amazing. Superlative. The dog’s bollocks.

  8. Jane Thorndale 7 years ago

    Serendipity.I discovered your book Just in Case last week and now you keep coming up this week! Books; articles in an old Guardian magazine and my partner coming home from work at NCW talking about you. As a new reader I am so delighted that you put finding your voice as the most important aspect of writing. I love to sing and took years to find my voice – now it pleases me and occupies a big part of life. Writing for pleasure however must wait until writing for income ceases (currently about 24 months and counting).

    1. Meg Rosoff 7 years ago

      Ah, so glad, Jane. Welcome to mutual serendipity….

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