A well-honed voice shines through no matter what you write. Fiction, narrative nonfiction, journalism, poetry, and marketing materials all reveal a sense of the writer. Admittedly, some writers learn to mask their voices in order to produce certain kinds of writing—marketers make themselves sound like their clients, journalists excise their biases, and ghostwriters echo their subjects. But a writer needs to know her voice before she can emulate the voices of others. Ironically, most writers emulate the voices of others in order to find their own. It makes for a sweet little paradox if you think about it too much.
But this post isn’t about the paradox of voice; it’s about the power of identity. Every writer can succeed if she works hard enough, because every writer has the potential of developing a unique voice that shares a unique self with her readers. At its very core, writing is not about talent or craft or opportunity. At its very core, writing is about personhood. Writing is a form of communication and its one of only a few ways we can communicate deeply en masse. Some writers will have bigger audiences than others, but that isn’t really the secret to success.
A successful writer is one who has found her voice, cultivated her style, and built up her audience. Not every writer will write on to fame and vast fortune, but every writer can create a body of work that is loved and valued by the right audience. And it all depends on knowing who you really are. You see, there are plenty of writers out there who are successful by worldly standards. They have produced a body of work that is well read and that pays them well for their efforts. Sadly, many of these writers aren’t using their own voice or style and aren’t reaching their own audience. This is what we call “selling out,” because it’s a hollow, intrinsically dissatisfying sham; but, it pays well, so some writers continue to do it.
If you know who you are, then you can find your voice. If you know your voice, you can cultivate your style. If you establish your style, you can build up your audience. And if you build up your audience, your work will be read by people who truly care about who you really are. It’s a nice, neat circle brimming with intrinsic satisfaction that can lead to monetary satisfaction as well. Establishing yourself in your niche isn’t “selling out;” it’s success.
So, who are you?