The other day I read a great book that played on all my senses, stirring all my emotions. Every time I read a book like that I get so fired up and I wish that I could write like the author. I then try to write in the way the book is written, to sort of imitate the author’s style. But it doesn’t take me long until I realize that this doesn’t sound like me at all and that I need to write from my heart and find my voice. The same way the great writers like Hemingway, Chekhov and Tolstoy each have a unique voice, a style of their own.
Sometimes I also wish that my writing would sound more ‘writerly’. I try to remember everything I have learned in creative writing class and follow all the rules as I write. But then again, the end result is nothing close to what I would write. It’s as if I have traded my personality. And I start all over this time forgetting all the rules, everything that I’ve ever been taught and let my words flow.
I try to not to hear all those voices that tell me to choose all my words correctly and make my sentences grammatically perfect. I try to write as fast as I can so that those voices will go away, at least until I finish putting my thoughts down. This is the closest I can get to being me. The writing isn’t perfect but that’s fine since I can always go back and fix things and make the words, the sentence structure and everything else as perfect as I can make them to be.
Your voice comes from your sweat, your tears, your blood. Your voice is how you see things, how you describe a scenery and interpret a situation. Your voice is how you create places and characters that are distinctive. Your voice is your unique way of seeing the world. And if the works of the greater writers inspire you to do so, by all means study their work and be inspired by them. But don’t copy them. Rather, let them set the standards for you, even if you are writing for children. Especially if you are writing for children.
Gina Ochsner tells her story: “I first met Laurel Lee at George Fox University. I signed up for a children’s literature class. The first day of class arrived, but the instructor, a woman none of us had ever met or seen before, didn’t. After 10 minutes went by, “Where is she?” one student asked. “I bet she got lost. That happens to a lot of professors,” said a professor’s aid. “I bet she is writing,” said another student. “Well she needs the practice,” this came from a woman with long hair that was black in some places and silver in others.
“Well I hope she doesn’t make us write kiddy lit,” the student aid said. “You can’t really call kiddy lit serious writing.” And then the woman with the long hair peeled herself from her back-row seat and strode to the lectern at the front of the room.
“I’m Laurel Lee,” she said with a smile. “And if you don’t think you can take children’s literature seriously, then I don’t think I’ll be able to take you seriously. Any questions?” All the air had been sucked out of the room. Then Laurel turned her back to the class, picked up some chalk and began to write: WRI 240 Children’s Lit = blood, sweat, tears and prayer.”