Don’t Find Your Writing Voice—Accept It

Publish date:

I found my voice as a writer rather late in my writing life. I spent about twenty years trying to write fiction. I had read fiction voraciously as a boy and young man, but had largely stopped reading it by the time I decided to try writing it. It was a strange choice in a way, but I didn’t know what else to do. I knew I loved to write, and since fiction was all I’d ever loved to read, I took what seemed like the logical, practical step to try to write it.

This guest post is by William Kenower. Kenower is the author of Fearless Writing: How to Create Boldly and Write With Confidence. He is also the editor in chief of Author magazine, a sought-after speaker and teacher, and the author of Write Within Yourself: An Author’s Companion. He’s been published in The New York Times and Edible
Seattle, and was a featured blogger on the Huffington Post. His video interviews with hundreds of writers, from Nora Ephron to Amy Tan to William Gibson, are widely considered the best of their kind on the Internet. He also hosts the online radio program Author2Author, where every week he and a different guest discuss the books we write and the lives we lead.

William Kenower featured
fearless writing

It was not so practical, as it turns out. I was trying to tell stories I had lost interest in hearing. No matter how hard I worked at my craft, no matter how disciplined I was at rewriting what I’d written, I could not overcome the disconnect between my inherent curiosity and the stories I was trying to tell. I cannot command my curiosity; it remains permanently independent of my willpower.

Eventually I found myself writing a daily blog for Author magazine. I was surprised by how easy these posts were for me to write. I loved both the format and the subject. I loved how these little essays were a blend of memoir, observation, and poetry. And I loved writing about the intersection of creativity and spirituality. It was just so interesting. I couldn’t stop thinking about this intersection, whether I was writing, interviewing authors, or just hanging around. It was so interesting that I was surprised when other people weren’t as interested in it as I was.

Soon an odd thing began to happen. People who read my work would occasionally remark how much they enjoyed my voice. I didn’t know what they were talking about. I had stopped thinking about my voice. When I was writing fiction, I obsessed about my voice. I knew how important it was. I knew how much, as a reader, I connected first to the author’s voice, more so than the story. The voice, after all, would be with me in every single word. Now all I was trying to do was share these very interesting ideas. That was my only goal every time I sat down to write.

Which is exactly how you find your voice. If you want to write, you must find your voice. But your voice is not like your singing voice, which can be trained to hit certain notes. Your voice is absolutely an expression of your inherent curiosity. This will determine not just which stories you choose to tell, but how you tell them. It will determine every word you choose, for the words are meant to express as accurately as possible what you find so interesting about the story you are telling.

Yet your inherent curiosity is deceptively easy to take for granted. It has been with you continuously all your life. You are used to it, even if you are not used to listening faithfully to it. This was certainly true for me. As I began writing those essays for Author, I realized I had turned writing into a search for recognition. That had become my primary goal every time I sat down to write fiction—to somehow attract the recognition of agents and publishers and readers. To be recognized, it seemed to me, you had to be special.

I could not manufacture special. However, once I recognized what I was especially interested in, I began to attract the attention of agents, editors, and readers. It really is that simple. It is as simple as accepting that what you find interesting is interesting enough, that what you find funny is funny enough, and that what you find profound is profound enough. Yet every single time I sit down to write, I must remember this. Every time I face the blank page, I must remember that all I have to do is listen to what has been speaking to me my entire life, listen, and give this faithful friend of mine a voice.

In Writing Voice, you'll discover effective instruction and advice from best-selling authors and instructors like Donald Maass, Adair Lara, Paula Munier, Dinty W. Moore, James Scott Bell, and many others, plus exercises, techniques and examples for making your prose stand out, be it fiction or memoir.

Flash Fiction Challenge

28 Writing Prompts for the 2021 Flash Fiction Challenge Challenge

Find all 28 poetry prompts for the 2021 February Flash Fiction Challenge Challenge in this post.

How to Not Write in the Pandemic, Early Days

How to Not Write in the Pandemic, Early Days

Novelist Rebecca Hardiman gives us an insight into the obstacles that cropped up for writers at the start of the 2020 global pandemic.

7 Tips for Writing Police Procedurals That Readers Love

7 Tips for Writing Police Procedurals That Readers Love

Mystery and crime novelist Russ Thomas explains how best to create a police procedural that will hook your reader and keep them coming back for more.

Poetry Prompt

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 560

Every Wednesday, Robert Lee Brewer shares a prompt and an example poem to get things started on the Poetic Asides blog. This week, write an alien poem.

3 Tips for Writing with a Co-Author

3 Tips for Writing with a Co-Author

Shakil Ahmad provides the top 3 things he learned while co-authoring the book Wild Sun with his brother Ehsan.

Viet Thanh Nguyen | The Committed | Writer's Digest Quote

WD Interview: Viet Thanh Nguyen on The Committed

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Viet Thanh Nguyen discusses the challenges of writing his second novel, The Committed, and why trusting readers can make for a more compelling narrative in this WD interview.

Dinty W. Moore: Poking Fun at Hell and Dante's Inferno

Dinty W. Moore: Poking Fun at Hell and Dante's Inferno

In this post, Dinty W. Moore shares what inspired his most recent book To Hell With It, what lesson it taught him, why writers should have fun with their writing, and more!

Arisa White: Putting the Pieces Together

Arisa White: Putting the Pieces Together

In this post, Arisa White shares how she was able to piece together her past with her present, how some works freed her to write, and more!