Tag Archives: college writing

I Hear Voices. Writing Voices!

opera singer

All writing is good writing.

No, not that drivel other people grind out like so much alphabet sausage. I’m talking about your stuff. All your writing is good.

Good for you, that is, like spinach. Even the stuff you didn’t want to write. All those application essays for college, the apology e-mails at work,  the gangster novel you were duped into co-authoring with “52Pickup,” that guy you met on the online-poker site (who, you found out, was also bluffing about his writing talent). Think of it as cross-training, when you work different muscle groups in different ways so you are ready for any fitness challenge.

[I’m assuming that’s what happens to people who exercise]

We bloggers talk often talk about finding one’s “writing voice,” a concept that can be challenging for beginning writers. I even wrote a post on the subject back in the early days of Clawing at the Keys, which you can enjoy or mock right here if you missed it the first time.

If you’ve been kicking around the writing scene for a while, though, you already have your voice and don’t think much about it. The next challenge becomes finding your other writing voices. Like all the “people” manufactured by your multiple-personality disorder, you have other voices, not just the awesome one you show off in your stories and on your blog.

I bring this up because of a mildly humorous comment I left on my pal Shelina’s blog, A Writer Inspired, yesterday. Every April she posts thirty writing challenges in thirty days, and yesterday’s challenge was to rewrite an existing passage or story from one’s own oeuvre using a different writing voice from usual. Earlier, at work, I had finished writing an ad-hoc software-training guide, which of course reads much drier than the stuff I post here, and I jokingly asked her if that counted as fulfilling the challenge (she said yes).

But then I got to thinking about it, and I realized I kind of enjoyed writing the guide. I’ve compose plenty of training material, but this project was far more of the “From the sidebar, select McFly. You will be redirected to the Flux Capacitor page (see fig. 2.1)” variety, which is new for me. When I read the document back for revision, darn it if it didn’t sound like a real technical guide. Of course, it is real, but I was happy to have captured that voice exactly on my first attempt.

singing catWhere did I find my inner software-guide voice? It didn’t come from writing speculative fiction.

Looking back, I think of the surveys I created for research courses I took in college. My papers on medieval architecture. The press releases I had to write for my Public Relations Management class, that 3.5-hour-long beast that ran from 6:30 to 10:00 every Tuesday night throughout my final spring semester.

Even farther back, filling all those high-school English journals. The report on the history of Maryland I had to write and present in fourth grade (I puked during the presentation. Sorry Maryland. Nothing personal).

I’m not sure how those writing experiences conspired to help me come up with polished technical instructions, but I do know I have many distinct writing voices that can be applied in an array of scenarios. I admit I was not excited, at the time, about those writing assignments in college and primary school. Yet here they are, paying back the investment time and again.

So next time you’re slogging through some drab writing project or alphabet-sausage assignment when you’d rather be hammering out the third draft of your novel or weaving a soul-touching tapestry in poem, remember that your writing is still being served.


How about you? What other kinds of writing do you do? Do you consider yourself a versatile writer?