What even is my writing voice, anyway?

That critique of the essay piece I read and linked yesterday has sent me down a rabbit hole of other writing about essays. I’ll put together a list of links soon; for reasons I don’t know the original piece at The Drift didn’t contain links or citations for the other pieces it references, but I have used my librarian skills to track them down.

This has me thinking about my own writing voice and what it is. I think it varies. Of course I have a standard academic writing voice, but I’m thinking for more personal writing. Mostly blogging.

I think I have two voices.

One is my Big Sister voice. This is vaguely didactic but not moralizing. It’s an attempt to be helpful. This is the voice I use when I write about my experiences as a doctoral student and tips for doing research.

The other voice is more lyrical, vaguely witchy even, and also fragmented. This is the stream-of-consciousness voice, the more vulnerable voice. This is the voice I use when I’m writing about my feelings.

These two voices add up to a fairly accurate representation of my headspace. Big Sister is when my mind is sharp, I’m feeling good about myself, and I believe I’ve got help to give. Fragmented dream voice is when I’ve got brain fog, when I’m feeling weak, or when I’m feeling woo woo.

I think they’re both valuable, though Big Sister voice is probably preferable for more audience-focused writing and fragmented dream voice for when I’m writing primarily for myself. For a while, I thought I should pick one and go all in on it, but now I’m happy to have these two different voices. They are both me, both verbal representations of my vibe.

What about you? Or your favorite writers? What kind of voices do they have?

Right now, I’m in awe of writers who can write something that feels scholarly and beautiful at the same time. Sarah Kendzior is great at this. Hiding in Plain Sight is a terrifying book, an important book, and a gorgeously written book. I don’t think I knew those could all line up before reading that. I think that’s the kind of voice I would like to develop. Maybe if I can get my two voices to play together I’ll be able to make it happen.

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Kimberly Hirsh, PhD @KimberlyHirsh
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