Art and Creativity Coaching Articles

99 hours of writing to find your voice

Over the last year I have cultivated a daily writing practice which has helped me not only to hone my style but also to expand my fluency in the written word – even as a native speaker of English, I need to practise! Like many writers, in my amateur phase, I strove to write but frequently fell foul of procrastination; the allure and romance of writing is more glamorous than the bum-on-seat ordinariness and agonising brain beating that is often required to turn a phrase in just the right way. Writing is not just an art relying on inspiration … if you sit around waiting for the muse to knock on your door, you will never write; writing is also a craft – a set of tools that needs to be fashioned and put to use for those times when inspiration does strike. I think it was Tchaikovsky who said that inspiration hit him every 4 days, but only if he put in the work the other 3 days. Pausing in my writing, means that I will pause more easily tomorrow, and the day after, until I find that my “pause” has turned into a STOP. And like any habit, it is excruciating when one has to crank the gears to get the engine going again; it’s best to maintain perpetual motion, even if one is only coasting for a while.

But what do I mean by “coasting”? And isn’t it impossible to produce good writing consistently? Absolutely it’s impossible. Even the greatest of writers produces rubbish – bucketfuls of the stuff! I’m always reminded of the statistic for applying to jobs: out of every hundred applications, on average you will receive one reply. This is just an average, and of course statistics can be spun however you like, but it made me think that instead of sitting around waiting for “the Universe” (so often used as an excuse for procrastination) to bring me that 100th “reply”, I have to instead put in the spade work to reach that 100th golden ticket. And the same applies to writing. In order to reach my moment of creation and inspiration, I have to put in the figurative 99 hours of mind-numbingly boring blah-blah writing for the sake of writing. But don’t be misled into thinking that the 99 hours are wasteful: these times of writing, be they diary, thought-streaming, brain-dumping (what I meant by “coasting”), are times when I can practise my voice, or voices. How do I sound when I am jocular, sarcastic, professional, technical, relatable and warm? Different texts require different voices, and it is the job of a professional writer to become a mimic of different characters. This applies even if you do not write fiction. I am not speaking crassly of creating different personas to play out a story; I mean that the written voice must be able to imitate our spoken voices, in that I do not speak to a managing director in a meeting the same way as I speak to a child during a play date. The greater the range of voices, the more sure I feel in their expression, the wider my repertoire as a writer.

On the other hand, some might think that I am advocating for a writer to be a chameleon, blending in but without having her own true voice. Not at all. But just as a teenager experiments with different “identities” before unfolding into their adult self (who is yet still an emerging and developing being), so I feel that I have needed to try on, and I continue to try on, a chimera of written words in order to find and give birth to my own individual voice.

We learn a language by speaking; we find a voice by writing. Procrastination is the friend of silence, the voice-less writer. The worst thing you have written is still a hundred times better than the thing you never wrote. Write, write, write, my friend, because you have a voice that needs to be heard … even if your ears are the only ones to hear it.

99 hours of writing to find your voice

This post was subsequently featured by Online Book Marketing – Book Marketing and Publishing News

©Mav Kühn 2016




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This entry was posted on February 15, 2016 by in Freelance Writing, Habits, Personal Development, Writers, Writing and tagged , , , , .
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