Be Your Own Voice

“You have to follow your own voice. You have to be yourself when you write. In effect, you have to announce, ‘This is me, this is what I stand for, this is what you get when you read me. I’m doing the best I can – buy me or not – but this is who I am as a writer’.” – David Morrell, author

Being creative means putting your thoughts, feelings and values into the art you create. Which means that through my writing I show the world: this is me and this is what I stand for.

No wonder though that for a long time my art was, in my view, unoriginal, bland and indistinctive. Because I had no idea who I really was. My first and foremost goal in life – and subsequently in my writing – was being nice and being liked by everyone.

But by living like that you never get to know who you truly are, as you always live to please another; never yourself. And as I never had much of a voice of my own that I felt comfortable with showing in my art, my writing always felt impersonal and utterly forgettable.

Thankfully, along the way I realised that being liked by everyone is a futile attempt and that it kept me from writing as best as I could. So I tried finding my own voice, in my life and in my writing.

Even though I have been strongly opinionated from a young age, I never much showed my personal feelings in my writing – or in life for that matter, except for close family. And publishing my writing meant exposing myself. My skill, my chosen topics and stories; me. And to have my family, friends and strangers judge me on that is scary. So, for years my writing remained unpublished, or I wasn’t able to write at all. I was simply unable to give myself, my honesty, mytrue feelings.

When finally I reached the point where I knew writing was all I wanted to do, I plucked up the courage to publish my work. But even then it meant that I tried to blend in, not be too controversial and write mostly fluff pieces.

Yet, I still received criticism.

Then I started to realise that whether you put on a mask you think others will like or don’t wear one at all, criticism will come. Studying journalism helped me a little. In my non-fiction I am much better equipped these days to handle criticism, because I received it as part of my education in writing every day.

Fiction, however, is a different matter. But looking around and listening to other writers, it’s clear the hurt that criticism brings will never go away, whatever you write, whoever you are, or pretend to be.

Which leaves you with two choices: you walk away or you persist despite the lurking criticism.

Eventually, I chose the latter.

That doesn’t mean it’s been easy. I still struggle with it. I can’t help it, I like being liked and going from trying to please everyone to writing about your true feelings without thinking of those who might read it remains challenging. However, I realised that finding my voice as a writer while trying to be liked was impossible and I now realise that in order to be a good writer, I need to let go of the fear and be true to who I am. And so I made the choice to be me- at the risk of not being liked – and pursue my writing.

This page is the next, and hopefully final, step towards me being able to show myself in my writing. This is me, the real me I hope, sharing my beliefs, my values, the lessons I’ve learned from the mistakes I have made, the hardships I have endured and the incredible things that have happened to me that together have shaped me and gave me – I hope – my own distinct voice.

I can’t be everybody’s cup of tea. My values do not line up with everybody else’s and sometimes people simply don’t like you and you perhaps do not like them. All you can do in life is be your most authentic self. As cliché as it sounds, it is that for a reason: because it’s true.

So try to find your own voice and do so in what you enjoy doing. Because being unequivocally yourself in all you do feels like setting yourself free and it fills you with a whole new and incredible life-affirming energy.

Have you ever struggled in finding your own voice in your work whether creatively or otherwise? Or have you never had any problems finding and sharing your voice?

x Sandra


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