In my previous post I alluded to some baseline questions about my writing that I was struggling with and hadn't quite answered. My "voice" as an author was one of those. If anyone reading this knows me, you know that I am a perfectionist (some might say to a fault). I tend to overthink what I'm doing because I take pride in my work and want it to be absolutely perfect.
My voice is a factor that had held me back from truly attempting writing because I never quite felt like I nailed it down. You read books by Stephen King (he's one of my favorite authors if you couldn't tell), J.K. Rowling, Neil Gaiman, or any other renowned author and you can just tell it's written by them. Their verbiage, syntax, grammar, and all other habits make the writing distinctively theirs and draw readers to them time and time again. This recognizable voice is something I've desired in my work for so long now, but still worry that my voice is too bland, not whimsical enough, not compelling enough, not gritty enough.
I asked my adviser, Zac Pettit, about how he found his voice and what he did to find his voice and was met with an unexpectedly candid answer: You don't have to find your voice. He explained to me that my voice is my voice. I know that seems repetitive and obvious, but he made me realize that I already had an author's voice: my own. The one I'm already writing in. The one I naturally write in.
Zac did also comment that while you don't need to change your personal voice to be a good author, make sure you're catering your voice to the right audience. A very colloquial voice would be considered unprofessional in a scientific journal just as a serious and verbose voice would be too complicated for a children's novel. This goes back to the concept of the ideal reader: you don't need to change your voice, but know who you're writing for. And if you do intend to publish, make sure the place you're pitching your idea to appreciates and supports the voice you have.
This was a confusing idea at first, but the more I thought about it the more I realized how true it is. The reason we love all those authors is because they're different. If all authors tried to mimic others we'd live in a pretty boring world. Furthermore, if any of the greats tried to imitate one another I don't think their stories would come across half as well- can you imagine Harry Potter in the style of The Shining? I doubt the fan-base would be remotely the same.
It's such a cliche, but realizing that I had already figured out my voice without knowing it, that it was "inside me all along" was a relief. I'm on the journey of simplifying my conceptualization of my voice and learning to appreciate what I already have. My confidence isn't where I want it to be; I still don't know if I'm fully ready to put my work out there. But knowing that there is something inside of me already, that I have potential, is a good enough start for me.