Have You Ever Lost Your Writer’s Voice?

Tania, me and Claire

I have. It was gone for over a month, but now it’s back – thanks to some great writer friends and the stars.

I’m in Canberra this week with my son who’s doing work experience at Mount Stromlo Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics. He loves astronomy so it’s going to be a great week for him.

It has worked out well for me too because it has given me time to write, and the opportunity to catch up with writer friends like Tania McCartney and Claire Saxby (who happened to be in Canberra by chance).

But most important of all, I’ve had the chance to step back and look at things from a new perspective.

I came to Canberra expecting to work on a new manuscript. I had put aside my work in progress after receiving some unsolicited feedback on my writing style that took me by surprise (not in a good way) and dried my words up.

I’m not normally this fickle – normally one manuscript is the centre of my focus and I don’t deviate from it until the current draft is finished, and I put it aside knowing that I’ve gone as far as I can at that point in time. But over recent weeks, I’ve been unable to touch my work in progress.

Inspiring Ellen Hopkins and Mo Johnson

On my way to Canberra I deviated, and that’s where I found the first piece of my voice. I went from Melbourne to Canberra via Sydney where I caught up with the Mo Johnson (author of Boofheads, Something More and Noah’s Garden, and Ellen Hopkins. Ellen’s amazing books, Crank, Impulse, Burned (and many more) were what first inspired me to try my hand at verse novels.

It was so exciting to be among YA novellists talking about YA novels. I’d been feeling a bit disheartened lately because although I’ve had quite a bit of interest from overseas, it appears that Australian publishers are not publishing the kind of YA that I write at the moment.

Just being with Mo and Ellen and talking about our writing was invigorating. It also reminded me that we have to write what’s in our hearts. As Ellen says, “We have to tell the story that we need to tell”.

Ellen’s words reminded me that although being published is fabulous, we write because we have something to say.  And so we must say it…no matter how many setbacks we have…no matter who is going to read it…we have to tell our stories in our own unique way.

So this is my week for putting aside all the things that have held me back from working on my YA thriller…that it might be ‘too dark’ or ‘too different’ or ‘too something else’.

After a long break, I’m getting back into it with fresh eyes and renewed vigour. I believe in this manuscript (I almost always have:) and I’m determined to make it work.

The break has been good for both me, and the manuscript, but now it’s time to immerse myself in it again.

Today, when I was lunching with Tania and Claire I realised that I’d let the words of one person paralyse my writing.

Whether it’s a bad review or a ‘too personal’ rejection, it can cripple our creativity, but the fact is that we have to move on.

I’m lucky to have my ever-optimistic and supportive crit buddy, Alison Reynolds who has encouraged me and had faith in me every step of the way. I’m lucky to have such wonderful and empathetic writing friends who have helped me more than they know.

If you lose your writer’s voice, here are my suggestions on how to get it back.

MY TIPS

  1. Take a break from your manuscript
  2. Identify what’s holding you back and deal with it
  3. Find or read about inspirational people to inspire you (go to conferences, join writer’s group, go places where you can meet and share with other writers)
  4. Read books by people who inspire you.
  5. Have ceremonial burnings of painful reviews or rejection letters
  6. Celebrate your successes, large and small

Have you ever lost your writer’s voice? How did you get it back?

We’d love you to share your stories and suggestions in the comments section of this post.

Happy writing:)

Dee

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9 thoughts on “Have You Ever Lost Your Writer’s Voice?

  1. So glad you’re back, Dee, and found your voice. It’s such a wonderful voice. Excellent advice about writing the story you have to write. And write it your way, because, as I’ve seen proven again and again, a writer’s gut feel is usually right for their story. It may not bring quick publication or recognition, but believing and persisting often bear fruit. Of course, if a publisher offers a contract insisting on multiple changes and rewrite, a decision has to be made. And in the early days, as emerging writers, we both know what that decision is likely to be. Though, even then, sometimes you must stay true to your vision for your story. Power on, Dee.
    🙂 Chris

  2. Loving the ceremonial burnings idea! Do we have to cackle while we’re doing it? I think it would add to the ambience!
    Yes, if your ms isn’t working just leave it alone and start something else, even if it’s just a short story. I believe in the power of the subconscious to tick over while you are otherwise engaged. You know, like if you leave a tricky crossword overnight and then suddenly the next day BANG! BANG! you finish it in two seconds. What has happened in that time? It’s interesting.

  3. Oh Dee you hit the nail on the head as per usual (for me). So glad you’ve got your mojo (aka writerly voice) back. I haven’t lost mine yet, but lose my real one many times which I sometimes feel is worse being a complusive chatterer. Thanks for those priceless tips though. Simply listening and absorbing is often enough to entice the urge to join in and sing again. Your recent luncheon seems to have done just that for all of you. Watch out for those paralysing tick types; we must learn to just give them the flick.

  4. I’ve also had this experience Dee – after recent comments from a publisher. They weren’t negative comments – they were just ‘questioning’ comments that made me doubt my direction. It was the most desolate feeling.

    Like you, this ms is intensely meaningful to me and is one I believe in with all my heart. It wasn’t until I showed it to YOU that I realised someone else’s questioning or perception doesn’t really matter. Hearing it can help us be more objective, but ultimately, we have to listen to our hearts.

    I am so proud of you. And it’s been a joy to spend time with you here in the capital. Txx

  5. Thank you my lovely friend:)

    I’m sure you will find a home for your ‘heart’ book. We just have to persevere don’t we?:)

    It has been lovely to spend time with you too.

    Dee xx

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