How Can Writers Find Their Own Voice?

Iowa Stubborn Freeze

Ever Been in a Freeze?

Did anyone or anything cause you to just stop and be still?  Say nothing, do nothing? Remain motionless until your eyes twitch and your extended finger is ready to drop off?

In the photo above the ‘Pick-a-Little’ ladies are part of a stopped moment in time. (I am second from the left at this Music Man rehearsal this past fall.) We had to remember to adopt a stance, a look, a pose and hold it until the up tempo in the music.

Well, first of all we didn’t know what to do. Then when Janet got the idea to frown, we all did. Next we realized we needed to be individual in our look. I picked kind of a bossy, know-it-all stance, Lisa chose finger-pointing, and the others chose their separate looks, too. When we put on our elaborate costumes, 1912 era hats and all, we were the essence of gossipy ladies doing the pick a little, talk a little thing.

ladies and girls 11_29_12

A group of the ladies in costume.

This is a little like my journey as a writer. First, I didn’t know what to do so I bought a book. Well, about thirty books, so far. My writing took on dozens of looks as I tried out the suggestions I found in each book.

My epiphany was ongoing, but the day I finally realized I had to be me in my writing, my show went a lot better. Oh, I had learned many clever and useful tidbits and some huge meaty pieces along the way, but my writing has settled into my very own style.

Books that help with all of this abound,  but some of my favorites are found in this post and in this earlier one. Read the annotated lists and crack open whatever appeals to you.

Consider leaving comments below with book titles you’ve found that will help writers move past the freeze.


25 thoughts on “How Can Writers Find Their Own Voice?

    • Margie Lawson is one I keep hearing about. I’ll have to find time to do one of her events sometime. I wish I could get to more in=person classes and courses but find the travel a bit far. In a large city, like Toronto, these things would be near at hand.


  1. Hi,
    The first thing I want to say is I love those hats! They are absolutely gorgeous! Now getting back to your blog article, I agree with you. I also bought books and read them but I found the most helpful method for me was actually writing. Maybe, it is the fact that I maintain a journal where I write from my heart about my thoughts, dreams, and things that I see that has helped me to find my voice. I do know I woke up one morning realizing I had something to say and knew exactly how I wanted to say it. The transformation had taken place, and I had become not only a voracious reader, but also had a burning desire to write and never stop. This desire has increased and has also influenced my voice tremendously.
    Two books that assisted me in finding my own voice are People of the Lie and The Road Less Travelled by M. Scott Peck.
    Great article, Elaine. It made me look back at how far my writing has come.


    • Thanks, Pat! I am amazed at how much you do. I don’t know either of the books you mentioned so will check them out although I ration myself on writing books now. One of my writing friends, Sherry Isaac, said you get to the point where you have to strike out and write. Seems to fall in line with your experience, doesn’t it?


  2. You ladies look fabulous, Elaine. It’s wonderful to see a bit of your behind the scenes. One of the books I still use often as a writer is the Reverse Dictionary. It’s great when you can’t think of a word, but you know what it’s associated with. For instance, under ship, are all the words associated with a ship, from the masts to the flotsam. Can’t remember the name of a fabric, they’re all there under fabrics with descriptions. Sometimes I find cool words that I can use metaphorically.
    Can’t wait to read more of your musical journey, Elaine!


    • What a useful idea, Sharon–a reverse dictionary for those times when your brain just won’t toss up that particular word. I use the online thesaurus a lot and also find cool words that way that describe my thoughts exactly.


  3. I agree with PatGarcia–what helped me the most was writing! Last year, over the holidays I sat down and wrote 20+ short stories, all on the same theme, but in as many different genres as I could think of. The practice improved my writing and also showed my natural voice pretty clearly.


  4. My writing of late has developed around topics that either charm me of late, or put a fire under me. My best poetry is penned under dire circumstances that others find themselves in. Poetry to the rescue, I call it!

    I find various topics which I find agreement with or disagreement with that move me to write. My wife just sent me a topic regarding the Today Show with Al Roark. I so sided with Al as he finally reached a boiling point over the firing of Ann Curry, or call it anything you want. They got rid of her.

    I wondered why he waited so long to comment, but it may be that the show was slowly dissolving Ann from “Today”, by first sending her to dangerous war zones. Maybe Al knew something about the final days of Ann’s work with the station that we weren’t privy to. For the time she was there, they never honored her good work. Al was just honored and probably was feeling Ann’s pain. I know I hated what they did to her. She was too good for that show anyway, IMHO. Cheers, Don

    P.S. So writing for me and a few others appears to be venting our emotions and could go in any direction!


    Thought you’d find this interesting! ~Me

    Al Roker
    Search & Destroy Mission
    Against ‘Today’ Show

    Al Roker is doing everything he can to undermine the “Today” show … trashing the anchors, sabotaging live moments … and it seems to be a part of a plan to avenge the firing of his bestest friend in the world, Ann Curry.

    Roker went on the offensive again this morning … trying to fire off another zinger at Matt Lauer and Savannah Guthrie during a live segment … but this time the quip was more of a misfire.

    Al was trying to explain why he pulled a weird frozen face for 17 confusing seconds during a live segment last week … and when Savannah tried to joke about Roker being a perfect fit for a wax museum, Al shot back … “We ARE in a wax museum, so it all works out pretty well.”

    Not funny, but it’s obvious Al — who is SUPER TIGHT with Ann — is so desperate to rip the show … he’s firing off zingers, even if they don’t really zing.

    It’s just the latest in a string of anti-Lauer behavior, which began after Matt railroaded Ann Curry off the show simply because he didn’t like her. Last week, Roker accused his colleagues of throwing people “under the bus.”


    • Hi Don!
      Thanks for your lengthy comment about the firing of Ann Curry. Alas, I am in lovely Ontario and tend to watch CTV News when I watch news at all so I don’t really know who Ann Curry is. Al Roker I have seen, though. Perhaps my American readers will be better able to comment on your views.
      I am wondering, would we call you a reactionary poet, though? Sometimes I wonder if I should try non-fiction as I often feel compelled to–dare I say it?–pontificate in conversations with friends and family about just this type of occurrence. Thanks again for visiting!


      • Yes, a reactionary poet is what I am. Thanks for defining it. When a gal told her husband, if he left her, she would do harm to their child, she wasn’t kidding. I wasn’t kidding when I quickly reacted to this with my own poem to show, not a monster as in this case, but what a real mother looked like.

        A dedication on Mother’s Day
        by Don Ford

        Here lies the child
        All fresh and new;
        Cradled in your arms,
        Precious, warm, and true.

        Believing eyes look up.
        They’re trusting, clinging too.
        A love beyond all measure –
        Full of life that’s needing you.

        In order to survive,
        The child must have you near;
        To feed, and bathe, and clothe,
        To comfort, laugh, and cheer.

        Your lives will twine together,
        Revealing two-fold strands;
        As every day you care for
        This child placed in your hands.


  5. In improv we play a tableau game where most of the players take poses and one person describes what is going on in the “photograph”. It’s a challenge to chose a pose that is interesting, and yet can be held for a long time.


  6. Love the pictures, especially the one in costume. Now I have the “Pick a litle” song going through my head. Cheep! Cheep!
    My favorite book is “On Writing” by Stephen King, he always gives me a good jump start and I find myself frequently taking his advice and admonishments to heart. I also have “The Fire in Fiction” by Donald Maass and it has inspired me to purchase the “Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook”, which I have yet to crack open. Soon. maybe January. Meanwhile I just look at it and savor the moment before opening the pages and devouring the wisdom. Love seeing all the books I still need on my shelf!


  7. First, Elaine, you all look spectacular all done up to the 9’s in your 1912 attire! There are wonderful comments above. I do believe just getting out and writing is the best way to “find your voice” for sure. I like the thought of a reverse dictionary too.


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