Rewriting my own words in the writing of Henry James, in our so-called “style masquerade”, was much more difficult than I originally imagined. Or, maybe difficult isn’t the write way to describe it – more like awkward perhaps. It was as if I was trying to speak in English and yet I was only allowed to talk in old Shakespearian. I couldn’t form ideas in my head into words the way I was accustomed to; I almost had to insert myself into another person’s mind. However, I wasn’t in reality writing in another language at all – I was still using the same letters, same words, and same punctuation as I had always used. So, why did it feel so strange?
I think it largely involves voice. A writer’s voice can often be their most prized possession – a unique way of expressing thoughts into words that only they can produce. My writing voice is often different than my speaking voice; it is more akin to what’s truly going on inside my head. This is what in part, I think, makes great writers so great – they are able to communicate with readers in a way that only they can. When I’m reading a work by a world-renowned writer or by one of my favorite authors, I nearly feel a connection between the words and myself; I think this is largely accomplished through the voice of the writer, one of the highest goals a writer can achieve – the ability to connect. Just as we read of all the different options to form sentences, there is no singular accepted “voice” for every writer to aspire to. Quite oppositely, a writer’s aspiration should be to find their voice and develop it as effectively and eloquently as possible.
The next thought I had relates to the balance and relationship between voice and writing style. How much does a writer’s voice influence their style and how much does a writer’s style influence their voice? I can’t quite differentiate between the two and don’t know if there ever can be a concrete answer. What I do know is that I will always continue to write, in constant pursuit of finding my perfect voice.