Voices in the flame

People in publishing talk a lot about voice.

Here’s my secret confession: if I have a voice in my formal writing, I can’t see it. Sometimes I get a glimpse of it, and I don’t like it. It’s too… me. Pedantic, labored, overachieving.

But I DO have a different voice– and I think quite a strong one– in my casual writing. I write for Play By Email games, and there, where I don’t worry about vulgarity, or proper sentence structure, or narrative flow from one paragraph to the next, my voice is strong. Sometimes I’ll write small snippets in response to a challenge on a blog– usually in a comment thread, nowhere that will be seen. Then my voice comes out, too.

I quite like my writing voice, when it shows up.  But I can’t seem to summon it on demand.  When I try, it hides.

Back when I used to draw regularly, the same thing happened with my art. All the work I’d do carefully would have a flavor to it I just didn’t like. The strokes of the pencil, the careful lines and the elegant shading would make me frustrated and miserable. But when I’d pick up a pen and sketch something quickly, to show somebody a thought or to make a tool for myself– those quick little ink sketches I’d love. They were imperfect, tangled, messy– but I always felt like the true spirit of what I was trying to draw shone through.

That could have just been me, I suppose. But it meant a lot that I was happy with those little pictures.

I keep thinking: oh, I should just write a paragraph right now, in my casual voice. Right now! Maybe nobody else will see a difference, but I will and I’ll like it! And then I think: but what will I write? And then I freeze up. After all, a lot of people don’t like swearing.  And it will come off sounding too contrived! And I use way too many exclamation points– even more than I do when I’m being all formal and focused. Yes, that’s the truth.

I think I have to be in a hurry to release my voice. And I’m far too nervous a writer to write blog posts and whole novels in a hurry. I have to do my best if I want to succeed!

All right, though. If anybody wants to give me a prompt, I’ll try to write at least 300 words in a comment, or a whole post, in five minutes, to see if I can unleash my voice.