You’ve heard it before: ‘write what you want to read.’ It’s good advice…after all, you love to read. You love to write. That’s why you’re working so hard to become a published author, right? And yet there comes a point when what you want to read no longer sounds like what you’re writing. What’s missing, you wonder, and then you realize—it’s your voice. Every writer gets to the point where every page feels as dry as the last. The key to being an excellent writer isn’t never losing your voice—it’s knowing how to recover it, and letting that process of recovery become the fuel for an even bigger, brighter, bolder uniqueness.
Step One: Re-trace your steps.
Becoming a writer is a process that begins with being a reader. So when you find yourself writing anything but the story you’d like to be reading, ask yourself questions. What was the first book you ever loved, and why? How did it draw you in, and what made it memorable afterwards? Are those same elements showing up in your work? If not, why not? If so, could they be strengthened? Understanding what inspired you to read help you remember what inspired you to write. Going back to those inaugural moments will remind you that above all, writers set out to create the same thing: a story that people will want to read.
Step Two: Revisit Your Failures.
Do you remember that one thing you wrote ages ago? The paragraph you couldn’t figure out how to finish, or the manuscript that got rejected in umpteen different ways? You’ve had every opportunity to bury those words in a drawer somewhere…and yet there’s something there you can’t quite let go of. Just because something didn’t work before doesn’t mean it can’t work now—and working on what you love even after you understand its flaws just means you’ve gotten that much closer to recovering your writerly spark.
Step Three: Trust yourself.
Writing is an intellectual endeavor…but it’s also a work of art, which means trusting the instincts that guide you. No one can tell you how to write your story. No one can understand what motivates you quite like you…so go for it. Make the unexpected decision simply because you can, because it moves you, and you’re willing to see where it leads. Losing your voice is, after all, just the first step towards developing it.
Catherine is an assistant at Holloway Literary.