How To Find A Voice

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.