Voice—the "it" factor. That thing you have to have but no one can really tell you how to get. Sometimes writers talk about it as if it's the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow—always just out of reach. Or there's the epic writing quest, in which you'll find Voice at the end, who will bestow you with great writerly power.
But grasping your voice is more like being Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. Your voice isn't out there somewhere waiting to be found—you already have it inside.
*cue sappy music*
No, seriously. You already have it! You may not be using it properly. You may not completely understand it yet. But it's still there, no epic quests needed.
What you really need is training. Jedi training. (Wow, can you tell I'm a little loopy? I blame editing.) Okay, maybe not Jedi training. I wish. Here's what I do when I feel like I'm losing my voice:
1. Drink honey lemon tea...oh wait, wrong voice.
1. Free Write. A lot.
You have to just let yourself write sometimes. Let the perfectionist go and see what comes out. You have to learn the natural cadence of your writing. Sure, there will be junk, but there will also be gems. That's how voice is. What? Did you think voice was perfect?
It's not. Your voice has flaws and strengths—the only way to figure those out is to write. And then write some more. Oh, and then let yourself write even more "crap."
As I experiment with my writing, I'm reminded of my strengths and make note to use them to my advantage. I also see my flaws and can more quickly stifle them in revisions.
2. Look Back
Sometimes I go back and read my old work. I know some writers refuse to look at their greener attempts, but I find it incredibly helpful. Looking back helps me see my improvement. It gives me confidence that I've grown as a writer, and yet stayed true to my voice.
Yes, a lot of it is cringe-worthy, but it's amazing how my voice is still there, just in a rawer form. I can see it in between the clunky sentences and gaping plot holes. It shows me that I've learned how to showcase my voice better.
When I take in other voices, it helps me see how mine is different or the same. Note I didn't say "better or worse." Voice is the most subjective aspect of writing. Reading different voices helps me learn what other writers did to make their voice work. Some are strong and distinct, and they adapt a style that mimics that. Others are gentle and alluring, and use their words to highlight that. I learn from every book I read.
Sometimes we wish we had a different voice, when we really should be embracing our own. That quest to change our voice, I think, is the fastest way to lose it. In the end, I think the best thing you can do for your voice is to be honest about it. Your voice is your voice. Love it. Know it. Take care of it.