(a new definitive series on being a good writer, by me, some kind of authority on writing)
Being the amazing writer that I am, people often ask me questions about how to be a good writer. “Raphael,” they say, “How is I be good for with words?” And I say, “What?” And they say, “What?” And I say, “How did you get this number?” I’ve decided to share some of the wisdom I’ve accrued over the years, because I feel sorry for you frankly, but if you use this advice to become more successful than I am I swear to God I will sue you, I am not even kidding.
Part 1 (of a one-part series): How does a writer find one’s voice?
First of all, you’re an idiot. Second of all, shut up. You’ll never find your voice by looking; that’s not how it works.
“Finding your voice” — as if your voice is waiting somewhere, ready to be found. All you need to do is look inward, and there you’ll see it, trembling, frightened, but fully-formed. But a voice isn’t found. It’s created, cultivated, shellacked together from various influences and stimuli. You don’t find it, you cobble it, like a shoe. LIKE A SHOE.
Write a lot. See what works. Read a lot, and don’t be afraid of your influences. Embrace them, explore them, find the crumbs in the corners. Try out other people’s voices, mix them together, experiment— you’re putting together a wardrobe here, a kit of tools, a team of all-stars, your own personal Traveling Wilburys. Plagiarize, collage, remix and repurpose. Good artists borrow; great artists steal, someone once said. Who said it? I don’t remember, so let’s just say that I said it.
You’re not a god, making something from nothing; you’re a katamari ball, and the more items you collect, the more powerful you become. You’re a tinted window, is what I’m saying, and what makes you beautiful is how you filter the light that passes through you.
I get the sense that some people think that influence dilutes — that the more you are someone else, the less you are yourself, as if you were born with some innate distinct youness that is gradually sanded away by the corroding forces of conformity. That if you could somehow tune everything else out and really dig deep within yourself, you’d find your voice there, pure and independent.
That’s bullshit. Your voice isn’t there, already made. You need to make your own voice. You need to make your own voice.