At age sixteen, I finally got up the nerve to ask out a young woman I had been working with. I was still too shy at that age and worried about rejection. So it was that I decided to put my creative side to good use. After careful consideration, I wrote a story. Within the story, a noble knight was off to rescue a beautiful princess from a demon. It wasn’t the most original of plots, but it conveyed what I needed.
The descriptions, of course, were loosely based around she and I, as were the names. I wove the tale for several pages and then allowed it to morph slowly. On the final page, the knight was instead myself and the princess was the woman of my interest. In the finale of the story, I was asking her to join me on a date for dinner and a movie. I would relay the story itself if not for the fact that I promised within it that only she would ever read the story.
I am pleased to say that the show of my writing worked and we did indeed date for a time. That isn’t the important part of the story. What is relevant is that when she finished reading, she said that my writing reminded her very much of Piers Anthony. That was a compliment to me at the time, since he was at that point in my life my favorite author. It wasn’t until many years later I realized that what that really meant was that I had not found my own voice in writing.
Until that point, I had been reading Piers Anthony since 2nd grade and on average was reading his books compared to others at a 5 to 1 ratio. It was what was going in, so it was what was going out. The only voice I could take much from, by default, was the author who I was regularly reading. Many years have passed since then. I have read a much broader selection of authors and worked actively to find my own voice in writing.
I suspect that the process never really ends. More precisely, if it does end, your writing grows stale. I know some authors who I used to enjoy have grown incredibly predictable. I can’t say who they read, but I do know that there is a pattern of stagnation in their activities. They grow. We each take a little something away from everything in our lives. The events that shape us, the words that inspire us, the frustrations that we face. Everything becomes a part of your voice. Remember that and don’t let yourself just fall into a rut where your voice stagnates. Stagnation isn’t any better than the mimicry found in those early in developing their own writer’s voice.