Every artist has an instrument. Photographers have their cameras. Violinists have their violins. Painters have their paintbrushes.
What, then, is a writer's instrument? You might say a pen. Maybe a Macbook Air.
But that's not a writer's paintbrush; it's an extension of the canvas.
Voice is what a writer wields whenever they sit down to type, scribble in their notebook, or turn ideas around in their head.
It's this soundless Voice that writers use to speak to readers and imprint their words, not just on paper, but in their audience's memories.
The difference between Style and Voice
All writers learn to scrawl before they write by copying artists they admire. That's why people say imitation is more flattering than applause.
It starts with Style, an aggregate of stolen voices, borrowing from the artists we devour—that's probably why it's called “taste”. The parts that get lost in translation, we replace with our own innovations. Slowly, we develop a style of our own, then a spectrum of styles we can apply on command.
But Style isn't Voice. It's akin to an accent.
Voice is more than pretty words and the rhythm of your sentences.
Voice is what gives a writer gravity.
The gravity of your inner world
Every person in the World contains a world within themselves—with its own history, people, culture, sun, and storms.
Artists make the decision to open up their inner worlds and share them through their art.
Some of these worlds possess a gravity that draws you in. Some merely orbit around others. An Artist attracts an audience through the gravitational pull of their inner world.
But gravity requires a great deal of mass: what you gain when you step back from imitation and step into yourself, standing firmly to face the World with the full weight of your own.
It's this gravity that draws us to the Voices of other writers, but we somehow expect to find for ourselves in the private pages of what we read.
The uncomfortable truth: You won't find your Voice in someone else's book.
You only find your Voice by the sound of who you are when you speak before the World, from a corner of your own world, and hear it echo back.
But first, you have to speak.