Do I Have My Own Voice?

This question has started haunting me.

I’m a mimicker.

I have one friend who sends messages online in a series of short sentences or fragments, never all at once. When chatting with him, I do the same.

With another friend, “eww” replaces dislike for anything because that’s a thing she does. “It’s cold and windy outside.” “Eww.” “I hurt my ankle.” “Eww.”

I was rewatching Lie to Me recently, and immediately started overusing “oi,” using extraneous sentence endings (“You’re a jerk, you are.”), and saying “pull the other one.”

I never saw this as a problem growing up. It was fun to adopt my friends’ speech patterns. Partially because I felt more accepted when using something I knew they approved of. Partially because I usually feel like my friends are more creative, witty, and clever than me, so using their unique speech patterns makes me feel more creative, witty, and clever despite that making zero sense.

Age really has nothing to do with my current problem. It’s that I’m a writer, now with a goal of publication. If I don’t have my own unique voice, I’m screwed. The internet says you absolutely, one hundred and twenty percent, nothin’ but net must have a unique, compelling voice. (As we all know, the internet is always right.)

If my voice depends on who I’ve been talking to that week, am I doomed to never have a consistent voice? And thus doomed to always land in the reject pile?

I’ve heard that some professional writers can’t read while they write because the voices of others mess with their voice. But it’s not just books that do this to me. It’s literally any words I consume. Who I talk to. What I listen to. Music. Conversation. TV. Books. So, what, I have to isolate myself from life while writing? That’s not gonna work out.

Also, I notoriously try too hard. I want to impress people. I want to be liked. I want to sound as creative, witty, and clever as I see my friends are. And I often impress myself with these stupid little phrases as alternatives to cliches, and watch them go completely unnoticed at best. Meanwhile, my friends say something, and everyone laughs. I’m probably right that they’re way cooler than me. Damn I’m lucky they put up with someone as lame as I am.

And how do I separate someone else’s opinion from mine? Quite often, I hear writers say that they hate their first draft as they write it or upon looking at it again after some time has passed, even as little as the next day. For me, it’s after hearing an opinion about it. If I write something I really like (let’s be honest with myself here, I’ve got an ego the size of Sirius–Black’s or the star, they’re about the same size–so I pretty much love most stuff I come up with. Also, I’m hilarious), I don’t change my mind upon further reading. My “damn I’m good” feeling doesn’t vanish.

Then I get a critique, someone points out a flaw, and then it looks like it belongs in the plastic bag in a dog walker’s pocket.

I’m not going anywhere with this. I don’t have a solution or a point. Merely fretting, which is a beloved pastime of artists everywhere. “Dog with a bone” doesn’t even do it justice.

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2 thoughts on “Do I Have My Own Voice?

  1. I think you’re overthinking this.

    You don’t need to have a super-distinctive voice to have a voice. You don’t have to be all quaint like Jane Austen or Neil Gaiman or be snappy like Chuck Palahniuk. If your words flow together and sound generally pleasing to the inner ear (like this post…), you have voice.

    Having the ability to mimic others’ speech patterns is a positive thing because you can write dialogue that displays unique character. You might need to stay away from a show like the Gilmore Girls for a week before you sit down to write, but otherwise, I think you’re fine.

    What you’re worried about is whether you’re funny to other people. Maybe your humor is more subtle and/or comes across better in the written word. Or maybe not a lot of people get you. Whatever. Their loss. 🙂

    Like

    • Lucia says:

      I won’t argue that I’m overthinking it. I’m pretty sure you’re right on point, there.

      The last paragraph hits really close to home. I generally have a hard time making friends in real life, or find myself coming across wrong or abrasively. And if the proportion of people in real life who like me matches the proportion of readers who like my writing, I’d be in trouble sales-wise. >.>

      Like

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