Writing: The Consistency of Voice

Me at 17

Me at 17

I mentioned several months ago that I had resurrected a short story I wrote in college and was editing it. I shared a draft of the revised story recently with my critique group.

One of my partners commented after our meeting, “You know, Theresa, it’s amazing how much your voice at seventeen sounds like you today.”

At first I was flummoxed. You mean, all my years of education, my decades of writing in one form or another, had not improved how I wrote?

I took one class in creative writing in college; otherwise, I spent those years learning how to write like an economist. I spent my law school years unlearning the social scientist passive voice and learning to write like a lawyer. During my many years of legal practice I became more and more argumentative in my tone. Then I worked a decade in Human Resources learning to engage employees when I communicated. And for the last several years I have returned to the world of creative writing, crafting novels and essays and short stories.

Through all of this, my voice had not changed? How depressing.

Haven’t I learned anything about dialogue? I’d always thought my years sitting through depositions trained me to hear how people really talked.

Haven’t I learned anything about characterization? I’ve spent decades watching how people react to changing circumstances, physically and mentally and emotionally.

Haven’t I learned anything about plot? The mark of a good trial attorney is the ability to tell a good story to judge and jury.

Me today (or not too long ago)

But then I thought about it some more.

I am who I am. Wasn’t that the lesson I said I learned so quickly when I went off to college forty years ago this fall? I say what I say, and I write how I write.

So I came to accept what my writing colleague said: My voice is my voice.

And now I must use it.

Is your writing voice consistent with how it was when you began? If not, how and why have you changed?

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0 Comments

  1. I think the writing voice is who we are. And it’s often the hardest to find. It took my coming back to Kansas and writing about the farm to recognize my voice.I write like my parents talk a little wacky and blunt.or better said like my family talks.

  2. I love this post, Theresa. I think our voice comes from our heart and hopefully for most of us, our heart never changes, it remains open and loving. I love the photo of you at 17…beautiful!

  3. Theresa, unlike you, I don’t have any writing to compare it to from college. Writing was the least of my activities then. When I did begin writing, it was 40 years ago. They were sing-songy rhymey poems. BTW, I love your pictures!

  4. I love this post Theresa. Your voice is analytical, complex but not chaotic, comprehensive and purposeful. The environment and context may change but you, Theresa, spirit and soul are central. Thanks!

  5. Pingback: I am Thankful for You, My Readers | Story & History

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